Today nothing indicates that Palestine is a rich country, but it is. It was written by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2019. The oil and natural gas deposits in the Levant Basin – or Levantine Sea, within the Mediterranean – have a net value of 453 billion dollars. This UN agency published an extensive report “The economic costs of the Israeli occupation for the Palestinian people: the untapped potential of oil and natural gas” in which it confirms that natural resources have the capacity to benefit the Gazan population, and to Israel, but also “a Source of additional conflict and violence if individual parties exploit these resources without taking into account each other’s fair share.”
The extermination campaign launched by Israel on October 7, in which, according to another UN agency, UNRWA, 11,078 people have already died, indicates that the scenario is the second. Gas and oil off the coast of Gaza are a strategic objective for the Government of Benjamin Netanyahu, which has opted for an economic future based on the exploitation of fuel for its own consumption and the distribution to European countries.
This week, an interview published by the weekly Phemonenal World provided a new point of view on this secondary factor of the Israeli invasion. In it, Israeli international relations expert Guy Laron, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, pointed out a change of course in the economic policy of the Likud Government. According to Laron, Netanyahu “has always wanted to turn Israel into a resource economy and energy hub.”
The Middle East is the most important energy point in the world. Almost half of the world’s proven oil and gas reserves are located in that area. Israel’s situation, especially if the complete colonization of the Strip occurs, is strategic as a distribution point and could be definitive if the pockets left under the sea are exploited.
The objective is to turn Israel into a key node for the supply of fossil fuel, initially through gas pipelines connected to the continent from the Tamar fields, which have reserves of 200 trillion cubic meters (bcm) and Leviathan (600 bcm), discovered in 2009 and 2010. Both fields can cover Israel’s internal demand for the next quarter of a century and will allow it to become an exporter to the countries of the northern Mediterranean, through ships or the gas pipeline projects negotiated by Netanyahu, which They would pass through Cyprus.
Israel has become a major gas producer and exporter over the past four years, doubling the size of its gas value chain, a report from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies highlighted this month. It extracts more than any European country. On October 29, Israel announced that it had granted 12 licenses to six companies, including British Petroleum and Italian oil company Eni, to explore and discover additional offshore natural gas fields.
“Since the ANP has not been able to exploit these fields, the accumulated losses amount to billions of dollars,” concludes the UN trade agency.
The UNCTAD study, however, notes that not all the gas and oil in the sea shared by Gaza, Israel and other countries such as Lebanon, Egypt and Cyprus, has yet been discovered, and that there is an important part that has not yet been discovered. began to be exploited.
The blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2007 has prevented “any access to the gas fields, and the billions [de dólares] which represent”. According to geologists’ estimates, there are sediments at depths ranging between one thousand and six thousand meters that hold trillions of cubic meters of gas. The Levante Basin, which bathes different shores, is one of the most important natural gas deposits in the world and sovereignty over these virgin pockets has not yet been established.
A part of the field, called Gaza Marine, 17 miles from the Gaza coast and with 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of optimal quality gas, is desired by the Government of Israel. In 1999, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) signed a contract with BG Group (BGG), which since 2015 has been owned by Shell. That agreement promised the company 90% of the profits, while 10% went to the ANP. The margin of exploitation of the two wells drilled until then, Marine 1 and Marine 2, was going to increase over time in favor of the Palestinian National Authority. It hasn’t been like that.
Since Israel’s military intervention in the Strip in 2008, however, the fields became controlled by Israel “without taking into account international law,” reports UNCTAD, which also reflects that negotiations between BGG and Israeli officials were ongoing. in October 2008, two or three months before the start of the military operation. BG Group agreed to share the then royalties with Tel Aviv. The relatively small volume of the fields has been the reason, according to Israeli experts, that no progress was made in exploitation.
“In 2018, 18 years have passed since the Marine 1 and Marine 2 drilling studies,” the report concludes: “Since the ANP has not been able to exploit these fields, accumulated losses amount to billions of dollars. Consequently, the Palestinian people have been denied the benefits of using this natural resource to finance socio-economic development and meet their energy needs throughout this period.”
This summer, before the offensive, the Israeli Government announced preliminary approval for the exploitation of the Marine fields, on the condition of “preserving the security and diplomatic needs of the State of Israel.” At the time, Israeli experts interpreted the authorization as a sign of improving relations with Hamas “for helping it oppose Islamic Jihad militants during the latest round of violence in Gaza in May 2023.” Five months later, the possibility of conquest of the Palestinian territory threatens to take it all.
In a decade, Israel has gone from being dependent on energy imports to becoming a regional producer and exporter. It obtains 50% of its internal energy demand with resources obtained by its companies, and gas represents 44% of its mix. From the Leviathan and Tamar fields it sends billions of cubic meters to Egypt and Jordan, although the supply to these countries has been interrupted since the extermination operation that began on October 7.
The first reaction of the gas markets has not been favorable for Israel. Tel Aviv energy stocks fell 10% after the massacre began. However, the year-on-year outlook is favorable, with economic portals recording impressive gains of 42% obtained since the beginning of this year. On Monday, November 13, a month and a week after the ethnic cleansing operation, the American oil company Chevron announced that extraction of the Tamar gas field had resumed.
Netanyahu himself acknowledged in a meeting with the Italian Prime Minister, the neo-fascist Giorgia Meloni, that Israel wants to “accelerate gas exports to Europe through Italy”
Within the Abraham Accords, sponsored by the United States and key to Israel’s geopolitical offensive and the isolation of Gaza, gas has had its own chapter. In 2021, the Israeli agency Delek Drilling and the Abu Dhabi energy company reached an agreement for the joint exploitation of Tamar. Located on the coast of Ashkelon, the field stopped operating on October 9 due to the possible impacts of rockets launched from Gaza, a risk that, as the Israeli Government itself has acknowledged, has declined in recent weeks. The Leviathan field has continued to operate normally since October 7.
In March, Netanyahu himself acknowledged in a meeting with the Italian Prime Minister, the neo-fascist Giorgia Meloni, that Israel wants to “accelerate gas exports to Europe through Italy.” The context of the war in Ukraine, which leaves Russia partially out of the gas supply equation, and events such as the possible sabotage of a gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia—a year and a half after the Nord Steam case—encourage Israel’s expectations of becoming an energy node.
Currently, Israel already supplies Liquefied Natural Gas to the EU, which imports 83% of its gas needs from third countries. Last year, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Israel and Egypt signed an agreement with the European Commission for the supply of this fuel.
For Guy Laron, the objective of the Likud is to convert the country’s economic foundation, currently based on services and high-capacity industry, also military, into a personalist dictatorship based on profits from the exploitation, transit and exports of gas and the industrial complex. This justifies the open confrontation that Netanyahu has had with the country’s middle classes, which gave rise to the conflicts over judicial control that have occurred in parallel with the extermination plans in the Strip.
Today, in view of the images of the total destruction of Gaza, it is difficult to gauge the wealth of Palestine. International law is on your side. The Hague and Geneva Conventions establish that “If, as a result of an action of war, a belligerent occupies the territory of the adversary, he does not thereby acquire the right to dispose of property therein. (…) The economy of the belligerently occupied territory must be kept intact,” indicate the resolutions of the UN Security Council. Recent history has already left Palestine without the water resources necessary to supply the population, but, after water, the next season is the conquest of natural gas, both the one that Israel has already usurped in the Marine 1 and Marine fields. 2, like the one waiting off the coast of Gaza.
As UNCTAD recalls, the physical characteristics of gas and oil wells make them a heritage that not only belongs to the present generations, but are also important for the future of humanity: “they are non-renewable resources, whose exploitation reduces the that is available for future generations,” this agency certified.