The Israeli’s and Palestinians are fighting again, because of a long-running dispute over the political system that will control the land which was once called Palestine and is now called Israel. Normally I wouldn’t cover the conflict on TheLongTailPipe because it’s one of those intractable political squabbles where one wishes they’d just learn to live side by side in peace rather than fight. But, I just learned that the conflict may have roots in control over a natural gas field, and that the fight may be about Israel seeking to establish complete control over the Levant Basin.
If the story is true, this makes yet another large scale international scope conflict where the publicly named purpose is masking the real purpose: Control over fossil fuel supplies.
That, in turn, makes it a LongTailPipe issue because it demonstrates again the negative impact that fossil fuel extraction is having around the world. Fossil fuels are implicated to the public in effects like global warming and other environmental ills. The political impacts from the desperation to control fossil fuel supplies is information which is not presented to the public.
Previously on TheLongTailPipe we’ve documented how the same pattern is behind the fighting now underway in Ukraine.
The area of that map we wish to focus on is just offshore from the Gaza Strip, which is located on the Mediterranean Coast just north of the border between Egypt and Israel. Look closely and you see a grey splotch just offshore that areal. Those Levant Basin gas fields are located within Palestinian waters and not Israeli waters. As we’ll see in a minute, the Israeli government is extremely threatened by that fact.
The Levant Basin is in the Eastern Mediterranean, and an offshore natural gas field was recently discovered there. European energy agencies have their sights set on tapping those natural gas fields as part of the overall goal of eliminating the dependency on Russian natural gas.
The publicly stated problem between Israel and the Palestinians has to do with which government controls the land – and more precisely, over the constant attacks between the two. Israel asserts its right to defend itself against “terrorist” attacks from Palestinians. On the other hand, the Palestinians see the Israeli government as occupying Palestinian land stolen from them in the 1950’s, and they assert the right to fight to oust an occupier. That’s been the story for a long time, so why am I bringing up natural gas?
I don’t want to get distracted by saying the common description of the Israel/Palestinian conflict is not accurate. I recently watched an excellent video presenting exactly this case, by an Israeli who’s the son of an Israeli general whose service covered the period from the founding of Israel to the early 1970’s. He, Miko Peled, tells a story about the Israeli Government’s real intention with an excellent amount of detail and personal knowledge.
Getting back to the natural gas fields, the Palestinians granted exclusive rights to British Gas to explore the grey splotch shown on the map above. In 2000, British Gas announced it had found a significant field, 1.4 trillion cubic feet of gas and some oil reserves. Ever since there’s been a tug of war with Israeli officials denying the Palestinians any ability to exploit those fields. Supposedly past history has shown that any money flowing to the Palestinian Authority ends up funding terroristic attacks against Israel.
A 2007 paper published through the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs by Lt. Gen (ret) Moshe Ya’alon makes this case. In his telling, Iran’s influence over Hamas, which took over the Strip in 2007, means any proceeds from this gas field will not benefit the Palestinians but instead will flow into Hamas’s war effort against Israel. Ya’alon is important to the present picture because he currently serves as Israel’s Defense Minister, and had formerly served as the chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). His paper came to a clear conclusion – allowing the Palestinians to exploit and earn revenue from this natural gas & oil field would establish a magnet for the “Global Jihad”.
It’s clear from the map above that the Levant Basin natural gas resources is much more than fuel for the war between Israel and the Palestinians. The basin crosses some very tense borders, considering the ongoing war in Syria and past struggles in Lebanon, as well as between Israel and both those countries. We found a report (linked below) suggesting this is going to lead to major battles between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians, Syria and Turkey. Oh, and possibly Russia.
We’re talking about 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 1.6 billion barrels of oil reserves, in the whole area, according to some estimates.
Israel may be looking to these fields for its own benefit, as much as Europe is eyeing it for their benefit. According to a report in Ha’aretz in July 2012, two of the governments chief scientists wrote a letter as part of the Tzemach Committee coming to a conclusion that radically differed from what was expected. Rather than endorse a proposal that Israel export half the natural gas in these fields, they proposed Israel keep it all to itself. Why? Israel is expected to have a natural gas shortfall, because of errors in forecasted natural gas demand by the Natural Gas Authority. Israel will need all of this gas for its own needs.
On the CounterPunch news site recently, TASCHA SHAHRIARI-PARSA wrote that since the British Gas discovery off the Gaza Strip coast, Israel has ratcheted up pressure on the Palestinians there. For example the 2008 attack on the Gaza Strip coincided exactly with the launch of negotiations between Israel and British Gas over the natural gas fields. A March 2013 report on The Globes (a business news site in Israel) says the Israeli government has been in secret talks with British Gas about these fields.
A 2010 report in the Daily Star (Lebanon) also goes over talks between Israel and British Gas. That writer depicts a scenario in which Israel simply cannot allow the Palestinians to control that natural gas field, and that since its discovery the Israeli government has been working to ensure that does not happen. I’ll note the writer, Mohannad El-Khairy, is a Palestinian and clearly has zero love for Israel.
Back in February, The Daily Beast published a report describing the Levant Basin as Israel’s next war zone. Israel is reportedly building a highly advanced naval fleet, as is Turkey, and Russia has signed a natural gas deal with Syria and has a fleet stationed in the Syrian port of Tartus. Lebanon and Israel are still formally in a state of war, with the U.N. enforcing a neutral zone but the nautical border between the countries is not defined. It turns out that both countries have overlapping claims on fields in the Levant basin.
On RT News, Pepe Escobar recently wrote a piece going over much of the evidence already stated and suggested that Israel is seeking to smash Hamas to control the fields off the Gaza Strip coast, and that the Israeli Government feels it absolutely cannot allow the Palestinians to be enriched by those fields.
Revolution News wrote a piece going over the same material we see above, and adding a few interesting details.
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