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Energy Independence
Blessing or Curse for Israel?
Israel - Middle East
Monday, January 03, 2011
Ed DeShields

The New Year announcement of the new giant Tamar gas field in Israel has changed its future forever and put it on a collision course with its neighbors.

When large-scale harvesting of the giant new natural gas fields off Israel’s coastline begins two things will surely happen.  Israel will become energy independent and the rest of the region won’t be happy for its newly found sources of wealth and security. 

New discoveries on the maritime border between Israel, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Cyprus, and Northern Cyprus and all along Israel’s coast have spawned a modern day oil/gas rush.  These are giants with enough gas to supply Israel’s energy needs for decades while turning it into a net exporter of energy about the size of Colombia, or Ethiopia.    

There is a fear it could be a military catastrophe as steps are taken to divide the spoils in a world with massive increases in demand and sharp reductions in newly discovered proven energy reserves.   Oil and gas is going to become very expensive in the near term and Israel is apparently sitting on a lot of it.

Already there are sharp words being traded among diplomatic circles.  Egypt is carrying out technical and legal research to ensure that Israel’s gas field claims are legal and does not interfere with theirs.  Turkey called the maritime border accord “null and void” because it ignored the jurisdiction of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.   Hamas and Hezbollah are crying foul saying exploitation of oil or gas off Israel’s coast is a violation of the Oslo Accord.  

These gas fields will become the THE issue going forward for everyone who might claim an interest in them. 

Even Russia seems to be playing both sides of the coin.  Russia is moving to support Lebanon’s potential territorial dispute while at the same time courting Israel with promises of technical and development support in the fields and the pipelines that support it.  Moscow has proposed to help Lebanon place itself on the map of oil and gas fields and pipelines in the eastern Mediterranean while helping it exploit its oil and gas wealth as an energy partner and provider of funds, equipment and skilled labor.

Under the 1982 UN Law of the Sea Convention, Israel can exploit resources in its economic zone.   However unlike Lebanon, Israel has not signed or ratified it.  The law is designed to clarify maritime borders between nations. 

As we enter a new year all eyes will be on Israel and the Middle East’s energy balance.  It’s not likely to be a smooth ride for Israel’s national security – despite its new independence in energy.

About Ed DeShields

Last week: Retail Bliss



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