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.