Will Turkey Foil Plans to Turn Israel and Its Neighbors into Major Suppliers of Natural Gas to Europe?

In 2009, large fields of natural gas were discovered below Israel’s coastal waters; in the subsequent years, researchers concluded that these were part of a massive deposit of gas and petroleum in the eastern Mediterranean, distributed among the territorial waters of Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, and Greece. Egypt and Israel have already begun exploiting these reserves, and Israel in particular is eager to join with Cyprus, Greece, and Italy in a major project—known as the East Med pipeline—that could export these fossil fuels to Europe, thereby relieving the EU of its reliance on Russia. But playing the role of spoiler is Turkey, motivated by its historic conflicts with Greece and Cyprus, its more recent hostility toward Israel, and its growing economic and diplomatic ties with Moscow—which include cooperation in the export of fuel. John Psaropoulos explains:

The key attraction of East Med is stability. It would be a risk-free, intra-EU route carrying committed volumes of gas to Europe for a quarter-century. Europe would in turn be a reliable client, in contrast to cash-poor regional economies [such as Jordan]. “We used to seek out investors in East Med. Now they are seeking us out,” says [Kostas Karayannakos, the executive director of gas supply for Greece’s public gas corporation].

For Karayannakos, the pipeline brings tremendous geopolitical advantages. . . . It is precisely this vision—of a pipeline that circumvents its exclusive economic zone, turns Cypriot energy interests into European energy interests, elevates the importance of Greece in the EU, and offers Greece and Cyprus a leading role in the EU’s relations with the Middle East—that concerns Turkey. Its displeasure has already caused one high-seas standoff. . . .

Turkey is the only country in the eastern Mediterranean that has so far found no proven and probable resources even though, [according to reliable estimates], it has spent at least $560 million on acquiring two seismographic research vessels and a drillship. It is also the only country that hasn’t defined its exclusive economic zone with its neighbors, but disputes theirs.

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More about: Cyprus, EU, Greece, Israel & Zionism, Natural Gas, Russia, Turkey

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship