The Israel-Egypt Gas Deal Is Highly Advantageous to Both Countries

March 1 2018

The Texas-based firm Noble Energy and the Israeli firm Delek recently concluded an agreement with Egypt’s Dolphinus to export natural gas from Israel’s offshore reserves to Egyptian gas-liquefaction facilities—the only such facilities in the region—and then export it to Europe. As Zvi Mazel explains, the economic benefit to both countries can be substantial, but anti-Israel sentiment could still get in the way:

Egyptian officials were at pains to stress that this was a business deal between private companies, while at the same time emphasizing that it was a first step toward making Egypt a regional gas market. . . . These attempts to preempt accusations of “normalization” [of relations with Israel] were not wholly successful. Questions were asked in parliament; an attorney petitioned the [Egyptian] supreme court to void the deal.

The ink hadn’t dried yet on the deal when Cyprus revealed that it, too, was engaged in negotiations with Cairo regarding the export of gas from its Aphrodite offshore field not far from the coast of Egypt. . . . Aphrodite’s reserves are estimated at some 129-billion cubic meters. Noble energy, Delek drilling, and Avner oil exploration [another Israeli company] hold significant shares in that field.

Several routes exist for optimizing the production of eastern Mediterranean gas fields. . . . Yet significant obstacles lie ahead. Ongoing disputes concern the maritime borders of all parties involved. Cyprus reached an agreement with Egypt regarding the delimitation of its maritime borders in 2003, in 2007 with Lebanon, and in 2013 with Israel. . . . Egypt, [however], has never delimited its maritime borders with Israel. It’s currently not happy with the agreement between Cyprus and Israel, even though its commercial waters are not affected and the coordinates of that agreement conform with internationally accepted criteria. . . .

That said, the enormous gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean could significantly contribute to the economic development and stability of the countries of the region, provided these governments can set aside their conflicts and differences of opinion to work together for their mutual benefit. As things stand, political and religious interests have the upper hand, and it’s hard to see how they could be overcome or avoided.

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More about: Cyprus, Egypt, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Natural Gas

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war