Israel has been slow in tapping into the large reserves of natural gas that have been found off its coast. Explaining the political and legal issues that have delayed further pumping of gas, Haviv Rettig Gur comments on the strategic significance of the reserves themselves:
Prime Minister Netanyahu has something of a grand strategy for Israel that sees the Jewish state transforming into a military and economic anchor for an anti-Iranian regional alliance. Higher electric bills are a very small price to pay for Israel becoming a major regional energy supplier to as many allies as possible, as quickly as possible. In the Jordanian case, for example, such a role buttresses a relationship that helps stabilize the West Bank and maintain Jordan as a buffer to the east. With Greece, it helps solidify the interest of both nations to unite in their shared desire to counter an increasingly antagonistic Turkey.
And it hardly hurts that this new role also emphasizes to Washington—still Israel’s major source for both sophisticated military hardware and international backing—the Jewish state’s increasing indispensability in a region marked by the fragility of other allies and past arrangements.
It says a lot about the sheer novelty of Israel’s new status as a budding energy power that this part of the equation, which is both the most obvious and the most significant benefit Israel stands to gain from the gas finds, is largely missing in the national debate.