Israel’s Revolutionary Plan to Provide Europe with Natural Gas

Last month, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, and Italy announced a plan to construct a pipeline for the export of natural gas from Israel’s offshore reservoirs to Europe. This plan, writes Emmanuel Navon, is a rejection of Turkey, through which it would be technically simpler to build such a pipeline. While such a project has been considered, Istanbul’s strained relations with Jerusalem under the rule of the anti-Semitic, pro-Hamas Recep Tayyip Erdogan have made it unfeasible. Navon explores the greater geopolitical implications:

Natural gas has turned Greece from a rival [of Israel] to an ally just as relations between Israel and Turkey started deteriorating. . . . In 2010, Benjamin Netanyahu became the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Greece, and the Israeli and Greek air forces started their first joint military exercises. In September 2011, Israel and Greece signed a security-cooperation agreement. Israel now uses Greek airspace for training purposes. Turkey, [meanwhile], is opposed to the Israel-Cypriot partnership in natural gas, but it has not been able to stop it. . . . This is a blow to Turkey as it is trying to reduce its [energy] dependency on Russia. . . .

Israel, Greece, and Cyprus all benefit from the natural-gas partnership: Israel acquires stronger leverage and strategic value vis-à-vis the European Union by becoming a natural-gas exporter; Greece is acquiring the status of an energy hub; Cyprus gains regional and international importance. . . .

The emerging eastern Mediterranean partnership for natural gas is no less than revolutionary. Historically, energy was the Achilles’ heel of Israel’s foreign policy. It is now an asset, thanks to the decline of the “oil weapon” [once wielded by Arab states] and to the increased importance of natural gas in the world’s energy market. Thanks to the new pipeline, Israel will eventually become a natural-gas exporter to Europe, without depending on Turkey. This tectonic change will grant Israel increased leverage in its relations with the EU.

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Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Cyprus, Europe and Israel, Greece, Israel & Zionism, Italy, Natural Gas, Turkey

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy