How Israel Steals Palestine’s Offshore Oil and Gas Revenues. Outright Theft. Billions of Dollars Stolen

UNCTAD Assistance to the Palestinian People: Developments in the Economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory

By UNCTAD
Global Research, September 11, 2019

Executive summary

“In 2018 and early 2019, the performance of the Palestinian economy and humanitarian conditions reached an all-time low. Per capita income fell, mass unemployment increased, poverty deepened and the environmental toll of occupation has been rising in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The Palestinian people are denied the right to exploit oil and natural gas resources and thereby deprived of billions of dollars in revenue.

The international community should help the Palestinian people to secure their right to oil and gas in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and ascertain their legitimate share in the natural resources collectively owned by several neighbouring States in the region.

In March 2019, the Government of Israel started to deduct $11.5 million monthly (equivalent to $138 million annually) from Palestinian clearance revenues.

The Palestinian National Authority responded that it would not accept anything less than the full amount of its rightful clearance revenues, which represent two thirds of Palestinian fiscal revenue. This fiscal shock is compounded by declining donor support.

UNCTAD continues to respond positively to the needs of the Palestinian people. However, securing extrabudgetary resources remains critical to fulfilling the requests in the Nairobi Maafikiano and in General Assembly resolutions for UNCTAD to report on the economic costs of occupation for the Palestinian people,”

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The UNCTAD report focusses on the impoverishment of the Palestinian population: “Falling per capita income and worsening depression-level unemployment”

It also examines in length how Israel took control of Palestine’s offshore oil and natural gas reserves in derogation of both Israeli and international law.

This constitutes an act of outright theft by Israel of billions of dollars of revenue, which is barely acknowledged by the Western media.

Below are selected excerpts of the UNCTAD Report pertaining to the theft of oil and gas revenues (emphasis added by Global Research):

Studies by geologists and natural resources economists have separately confirmed that the Occupied Palestinian Territory lies above considerable reservoirs of oil and natural gas wealth off the coast of Gaza and in the West Bank. Within this context, UNCTAD (2019) prepared a study to sketch preliminary outlines of the economic loss incurred by the Palestinian people as a result of being denied their right to develop and exploit their oil and natural gas resources.

… In 1999, the BG Group (BGG) discovered a large gas field (Gaza Marine) at a distance of 17 to 21 nautical miles off the Gaza coast. In November 1999, within the bounds of the Oslo Accords, which give PNA maritime jurisdiction over its waters up to 20 nautical miles from the coast, PNA signed a 25-year contract for gas exploration with BGG. In 2000, BGG drilled two wells in the field and carried out feasibility studies with good results.

… With reserves estimated at 1 trillion cubic feet of good quality natural gas, it was envisioned that the Palestinian people would be able to satisfy domestic demand and export the remainder. The 25-year contract gave BGG 90 per cent of the licence shares and PNA, 10 per cent, until production began. Subsequently, the PNA share was slated to increase to 40 per cent.

In July 2000, the Government of Israel granted BGG authorization to drill the first well, Marine 1. The authorization to drill the second well and the successful gas strikes at the two wells promised a potential windfall for the Palestinian people. In September 2000, the head of PNA, accompanied by Palestinian businesspeople and the media, lit the flame proving the presence of gas at the BGG offshore exploration platform. The PNA agreement with BGG included field development and the construction of a gas pipeline and the licence covered the entire Gaza offshore marine area, which is contiguous to several Israeli offshore gas facilities.

In May 2002, the Government of Israel agreed to negotiate an agreement for an annual supply of 0.05 trillion cubic feet of Palestinian gas for a period of 10 to 15 years. Yet in 2003, the Government of Israel reversed its position, stating that funds flowing to PNA could be used to support terrorism. However, in April 2007, the Government of Israel approved a proposal to renew discussions with BGG, whereby Israel would purchase 0.05 trillion cubic feet of Palestinian natural gas for $4 billion annually, starting in 2009, with profits in the order of $2 billion, of which $1 billion was to go to Palestinians. It was argued that this would generate mutual benefits deemed to foster a good atmosphere for peace.

The Government of Israel, however, had different plans for sharing revenues with Palestinians. An Israeli team of negotiators was set up to formulate a deal with BGG, bypassing Palestinians. It appeared that the Israeli team wanted the Palestinians to be paid in goods and services and insisted that no money should go to the Hamas-controlled government in Gaza. The effect was essentially to nullify the contract signed in 1999 between PNA and BGG.

In November 2008, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources of Israel instructed the Israel Electric Corporation to enter into negotiations with BGG on the purchase of natural gas from the BGG offshore concession in Gaza. However, a new territorial arrangement emerged subsequent to the Israeli military operation in Gaza in December 2008, featuring the militarization and control of the entire Gaza coastline and maritime areas and the de facto confiscation of Palestinian natural gas fields and their integration into Israel’s contiguous offshore installations.

Nineteen years have passed since the drilling of Marine 1 and Marine 2. Since PNA has not been able to exploit these fields, the accumulated losses are in the billions of dollars and the Palestinian people have been denied the benefits of using this natural resource to finance socioeconomic development and meet their fiscal and energy needs.

 

Read the full UNCTAD report here.(pdf)

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Bassam Shakaa: The Making of a Palestinian ‘Organic Intellectual’

Bassam Al Shakaa

Between his birth in Nablus in 1930 and his death, Bassam Shakaa fought a relentless struggle for Palestinian rights. He challenged Israel, the PA, US imperialism and reactionary Arab governments. Throughout this arduous journey, he survived exile, prison and an assassination attempt.

July 29th, 2019

t would be unfair to claim that Palestine has not produced great leaders. It has, and Bassam Shakaa, the former Mayor of Nablus, who passed away on July 22 at the age of 89, was living proof of this.

The supposed deficit in good Palestinian leadership can be attributed to the fact that many great leaders have been either assassinated, languish in prison or are politically marginalized by Palestinian factions.

What was unique about Shakaa is that he was a true nationalist leader who struggled on behalf of all Palestinians without harboring any ideological, factionalist or religious prejudice. Shakaa was an inclusive Palestinian leader, with profound affinity to pan-Arabism and constant awareness of the global class struggle.





In a way, Shakaa exemplified the ‘organic intellectual’ as described by Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci. Indeed, Shakaa was not a mere “mover of feelings and passions” but an “active participant in practical life, as constructor and organizer – a permanent persuader, not just a simple orator”.

Shakaa’s base of support was, and remained, the people – ordinary Palestinians from Nablus and throughout Palestine who always stood by his side, most memorably when the Israeli government attempted to exile him in 1975; when the Palestinian Authority (PA) placed him under house arrest in 1999 and when he was finally laid to rest in his beloved home town of Nablus, a few days ago.

Between his birth in Nablus in 1930 and his death, Shakaa fought a relentless struggle for Palestinian rights. He challenged Israel, the PA, US imperialism and reactionary Arab governments. Throughout this arduous journey, he survived exile, prison and an assassination attempt.

But there is more to Shakaa than his intellect, eloquence, and morally-guided positions. The man represented the rise of a true democratic Palestinian leadership, one that sprang from, spoke and fought for the people.

It was in the mid-1970s that Shakaa rose to prominence as a Palestinian nationalist leader, an event that changed the face of Palestinian politics to this day.

Following its occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in June 1967, the Israeli government moved quickly to fashion a new status quo, where the Occupation became permanent and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was denied any political base in the newly occupied territories.

Among other things, the Israeli government aimed at creating an ‘alternative’ Palestinian leadership that would engage with Israel with trivial, non-political matters, therefore marginalizing the PLO and its inclusive political program.

In April 1976, the Israeli government, then led by Yitzhak Rabin, conducted local elections in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel had, by then, assembled another group of Palestinian ‘leaders’, which consisted mostly of traditional heads of clans – a small, self-seeking oligarchy that historically accommodated whatever foreign power happened to be ruling over Palestinians.

Israel was almost certain that its hand-picked allies were ready to sweep the local elections. But the Occupation had its unintended consequences, which surprised the Israelis themselves. For the first time since Israel’s creation, all of historic Palestine was now under Israeli control. This also meant that the Palestinian people were, once again, part of the same demographic unit, which allowed for coordinated political mobilization and popular resistance.

These efforts were largely facilitated by the Palestinian National Front (PNF) which was founded in 1973 and comprised all Palestinian groups throughout Occupied Palestine. What irked Israel most is that the PNF had developed a political line that was largely parallel to that of the PLO.

To Israel’s dismay, the PNF decided to take part in the local elections, hoping that its victory could defeat the Israeli stratagem entirely. To thwart the PNF’s initiative, the Israeli army carried out a massive campaign of arrests and deportation of the group’s members, which included intellectuals, academics and local leaders.

But all had failed as Palestine’s new leaders won decisive victories, claiming most mayoral offices and bravely articulating an anti-occupation, pro-PLO agenda.

“We are for the PLO, and we say this in our electoral speeches,” the elected Mayor of Ramallah, Karim Khalaf, said at the time. “The people who come along to our meetings do not ask about road improvements and new factories; we want an end to the Occupation.”

Bassam Shakaa was at the forefront of that nascent movement, whose ideals and slogans spread out to all Palestinian communities, including those inside Israel.

Bassam Al Shakaa

Bassam Al Shakaa following an assassination attempt

Despite decades of exile, fragmentation and Occupation, the Palestinian national identity was now at its zenith, an outcome the Israeli government could never have anticipated.

In October 1978, Shakaa, Khalaf and the other empowered mayors were joined by city councilors and leaders of various nationalist institutions to form the National Leadership Committee, the main objective of which was to challenge the disastrous Camp David agreement and the resulting marginalization of the Palestinian people and their leadership.

On July 2, 1980, a bomb planted by a Jewish terrorist group, blew up Shakaa’s car, costing him both of his legs. Another targeted Khalaf, who had one of his legs amputated. The leaders emerged even stronger following the assassination attempts.

“They ripped off both my legs, but this only means that I am closer to my land,” said Shakaa from his hospital bed.

“I have my heart, my intellect and a just aim to fight for, I don’t need my legs.”

In November 1981, the Israeli government dismissed the nationalist mayors, including Shakaa. But that was not the end of his struggle which, following the formation of the PA in Ramallah in 1994, acquired a new impetus.

Shakaa challenged the PA’s corruption and subservience to Israel. His frustration with the PA led him to help draft and to sign, in 1999, a “Cry from the Homeland”, which denounced the PA for its “systematic methodology of corruption, humiliation and abuse against the people.” As a result, the PA placed Shakaa, then 70, under house arrest. 

However, it was that very movement created by Shakaa, Khalaf and their peers that sowed the seeds for the popular Palestinian uprising in 1987. In fact, the ‘First Intifada’ remains the most powerful popular movement in modern Palestinian history.

May Shakaa rest in peace and power, now that he has fulfilled his historic mission as one of Palestine’s most beloved leaders and true organic intellectuals of all times.

Feature photo | Bassam Al Shakaa poses in front of an Israeli police vehicle just one week after being released from an Israeli jail.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His last book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and was a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website iswww.ramzybaroud.net

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

Unilateral Surrender? Hollow Mahmoud Abbas Suspension of Agreements with Israel

Image result for traitor Abbas
Global Research, July 26, 2019
Image result for traitor Abbas

 

In 2005, Mahmoud Abbas was anointed by Israel to serve its interests.

Installed by a rigged election with no legitimacy, his term expired in 2009 but it didn’t matter. 

Israeli hardliners kept him in power where he remains as long as staying submissive to their will, meaningless rhetoric not an issue.

For over 14 years, he served as Jewish state enforcer in the Occupied Territories, betraying the Palestinian people. More convenient stooge than statesman, he’s Israel’s puppet.

He long ago abandoned Palestine’s liberating struggle, collaborating with the enemy for benefits afforded him and his family.

Betrayal pays well. Middle East expert As’ad AbuKhalil earlier estimated his super-wealth, saying he amassed around $1 million monthly, largely from stolen Palestinian money and other embezzled funds, adding:

His wealth is stashed abroad in Jordanian and other accounts — “not under any national or international scrutiny.”

Unnamed PA sources earlier said he has extensive property holdings. His sons Tarek and Yasser also profited hugely from PA projects.

A former Abbas aide called him the “sultan of Ramallah,” describing him as thin-skinned and vengeful, tolerating no opposition.

He’s in power unchallenged because Israel and the US wants him heading the PA, largely serving their interests by enforcing harshness on the Palestinian people.

Since Hamas was elected Palestine’s legitimate ruling authority in January 2006, Abbas collaborated with Israel against its leadership, part of the Jewish state’s divide and conquer strategy.

In 1993, he was part of the Palestinian team in Oslo, negotiating the Versailles accord, his signature on the capitulation.

The late Edward Said minced no words calling it unilateral surrender, Palestinians getting nothing in return but hollow Israeli promises, abandoned before the ink was dry.

Throughout Abbas’ tenure as puppet president, Israel expanded settlements on stolen Palestinian land unobstructed by him or his cronies, handsomely bribed to capitulate to their interests.

Collaborating with the enemy is treason, how Abbas operated since Oslo and throughout his time as PA head.

He hasn’t gone along with what he knows about Trump’s no-peace/peace plan “deal of the century” for good reason.

A third intifada might erupt if he capitulated to what no responsible leadership should touch, possibly making him a marked man by Palestinians for elimination, maybe killed for betrayal.

Time and again in response to unacceptable Israeli actions against long-suffering Palestinians, Abbas threatened to suspend cooperation with the Jewish state, never following through with commitment, his rhetoric amounting to hollow deception.

His latest threat came in response to Israel’s unlawful demolition of 70 Wadi al-Hummus homes in Sur Baher township, a Palestinian neighborhood on the southeastern outskirts of East Jerusalem.

Israel claimed they were too close to its separation wall, what the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled illegal in 2004 — a land theft scheme unrelated to security issues.

Israel wants the entire city Judaized for exclusive Jewish development and use, Palestinians ethnically cleansed from land they legally own.

Most Sur Baher Palestinian structures destroyed were in West Bank Areas A and B, under Palestinian jurisdiction, according to Oslo.

It didn’t matter and never does. Nothing stands in the way of Israeli pursuit of its agenda at the expense of fundamental Palestinian rights and the rule of law.

Abbas’ latest “suspension” threat takes effect on July 26, saying

“(w)e will not succumb to the dictates and the imposing of a fait accompli on the ground with brute force, specifically in Jerusalem. All that the (Israeli) occupation state is doing is illegal,” adding:

“Our hands have been and are still extended to a just, comprehensive and lasting peace. But this does not mean that we accept the status quo or surrender to the measures of the occupation.”

“We will not surrender and we will not coexist with the occupation, nor will we accept the ‘deal of the century.’ ”

“Palestine and Jerusalem are not for sale or bargain. They are not a real estate deal in a real estate company…no matter how much time it takes, the repugnant occupation is going to be defeated and our future state will be independent.”

In 2017, the PA suspended diplomatic relations with the US over Trump’s one-sided support for Israel, including his no-peace “deal of the century” peace plan — a symbolic gesture, achieving nothing positive for the Palestinian people.

Image result for traitor Abbas

Abbas and his cronies capitulated to occupation harshness for over 25 years ago, permitting hundreds of thousands of settlers to control Palestinian land illegally — Israel ignoring Fourth Geneva’s Article 49, the PA leadership doing nothing to contest its unlawful actions.

The Fourth Geneva provision prohibits

“(i)ndividuals or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not…regardless of their motive.”

“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

It’s what Israel has done since 1967 — unobstructed by the world community and UN authorities — nor by PA leadership since Oslo (1993) and follow-up agreements.

Ignoring his longstanding collaboration with Israel against Hamas, undermining Palestinian unity against repressive occupation, land theft, and other Jewish state high crimes against long-suffering Palestinians, including three Israeli wars of aggression against Gaza since December 2008, Abbas falsely said:

“My hand is extended (to Hamas) for reconciliation, and it is time to get more serious.”

Image result for Ramallah traitor

Political analyst Dawoud Yousef downplayed Abbas’ threatened suspension of ties to Israel, saying:

“(T)he PA is completely powerless to make these kind of dictates. They exist because the occupation allows it,” adding:

“From the Oslo Accords onwards, the PA has been designed and structured to be dependent on cooperation with Israel.”

It’s a powerless, Israeli created body to serve its interests. Earlier PA threats to cut cooperation with Israel were “never complete and only meant the ending of high level communications, not day to day interactions between security forces,” Yousef explained, adding:

“(T)hese threats demonstrate to an acute degree the complete emptiness of the PA’s diplomatic strategy within the current Post-Oslo paradigm.”

“The asymmetry of power wasn’t offset by the PA’s establishment. It was officially entrenched. (Its threats are) as if the prisoner says that he no longer recognizes his cell.”

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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Returning with Oslo: Stateless, without Identity

By Al-Ahed

Gaza – Ayman Matar, a Palestinian from the besieged Gaza Strip, had the opportunity to work as a teacher in a school in Kuwait. But sadly, he won’t be able to travel because he has a “zeroed” passport.

People with “zeroed” or invalid passports are those carrying the temporary Palestinian passports, who entered the Gaza Strip after the return of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, filed family reunion applications years ago to obtain an identity card with an official number, but still didn’t receive any endorsement by the ‘Israeli’ occupation authorities regarding the “family reunion”, hence their passports carry zeroes as their serial numbers.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian and Jordanian authorities stopped dealing with people carrying “zeroed passports” under the pretext of lacking identification papers that qualify them for traveling.

Ayman is shocked for not being able to leave the Gaza Strip to build his future. “I am jobless in Gaza. I’ve made the impossible to be accepted among the teachers’ mission to Kuwait… but I am deprived of my simplest rights, God will suffice me,” he says.

Ayman adds that his right to travel is one of the simplest rights in other countries, as well as for other Palestinians who enjoy travelling freely without any obstacle.

“Why there are not yet any solutions for the people with ‘zeroed passports’,” Ayman asks, adding that: “We have the right to travel, receive medical treatment, study and work just like any other human being.”

Noting that he had entered Gaza via his ‘zeroed passport’, Ayman called on the Palestinian Authority to find solutions for those people to be able to travel and fulfill their needs.

Another case is Mrs. Sahar al-Baz. Her ‘zeroed passport’ banned her from seeing her father before he died in 2009 after she came to the Gaza Strip where she made a family and settled without her parents who remained abroad.

“There are different examples and painful stories of the people with ‘zeroed passports’… for what is this pain they are rooting in our hearts? We need a solution to our problems, it is enough of grief, sorrow and suffering,” Mrs. al-Baz says.

“I have the right to own a Palestinian identity and be recognized in the entire Arab world.”

The lady, in her forties, called on the Palestinian Authority to communicate with the Egyptian government to allow them pass through the Rafah Checkpoint to access the outer world.

People carrying these passports hold sit-ins in front of the Refugees Affairs Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] in Gaza to demand radical and quick solutions for their cause that is still extending.

According to Palestinian Journalist Muthni al-Najjar,

“We are protesting in front of the PLO’s gate to convey a message of protest and ask all the concerned parties whether in Gaza or Egypt to stop the suffering of more than 5000 Palestinians for not being legally nor internationally recognized.”

The journalist returned to Gaza from Iraq in 1994 and remained there without a national record. He has a blue identity card issued by the Gazan Interior Ministry which allows him to enjoy domestic rights but is not recognized abroad.

There are some 5000 Palestinian nationals carrying the ‘zeroed passports’, lacking all rights that range between the right to receive medical treatment abroad to seeing their family members outside the Gaza Strip, not to mention their natural right to receive education in a foreign country.

The ‘zeroed passports’ term is referred to the people who were displaced due to the ‘Israeli’ occupation of Palestine and returned with the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo Accord between 1994 and 2000, without obtaining the regular ‘green’ Palestinian identity card. They were rather offered the ‘zeroed passport’ by the Refugees’ Affairs Department of the PLO, an unofficial document that is supposed to ease their living.

The Economic Entrails at the Heart of the ‘Deal of the Century’

Image result for The Economic Entrails at the Heart of the ‘Deal of the Century’
Alastair Crooke
June 25, 2019

It is nothing new to say that the ‘Deal of the Century’ is – and always was – in essence an economic project. Indeed, it seems that its political ramifications are viewed by the White House as little more than the ineluctable consequences to an a priorieconomic architecture, already in the process of being unfolded.

In other words, it is the economic facts on the ground that are intended shape the political outcome — an attenuated political landscape that anyway has been minimised by Trump’s pre-emptive removal of key pieces of any Palestinian negotiating leverage.

The financial squeeze on the Palestinians is well attested. On the one hand, the Palestinian Authority (historically dependent on Saudi subvention) is gently slipping into bankruptcy; whilst Gaza is held in virtual abject dependency through the drip-feed of subventions channelled into Gaza by Qatar, with Israeli permission — the size of this latter monthly ‘lifeline’ subvention being carefully adjusted by Israel according to what it judges to be the norms of (generally Hamas) ‘good conduct’.

So, on the one hand there is the financial siege that is intended to make the Palestinians pliant to the ‘quality of life package’ which the ‘deal’ is supposed to bring — the Bahrain summit later this month being its shopfront. But there is another less well recognised side to the Deal which is summarised in the title to a McClatchy article entitled, White House sees Egyptian energy forum as a ‘roadmap to Middle East peace’.

In a later piece, McClatchy publishes the newly declassified map of the US East Mediterranean energy ‘roadmap’. And here the fuller picture becomes clear: the US sponsored ‘gas forum’, “according to three senior administration officials, that map [the] declassified one, obtained by McClatchy – has motivated members of the [US] National Security Council to prioritize the formation of a gas forum in the Eastern Mediterranean that would simultaneously boost and entangle the economies of several countries that have been at odds for decades”.

Well, let’s translate that little euphemism: ‘boost and entangle’. What that formula translates into is — the means to integrate Israel into the economic regional sphere is firstly, through energy. Yet, it is not intended to integrate Israel alone into this Egyptian economic sphere, but also to make Jordan, the PA (and maybe even Lebanon), too, partially dependent on Israeli energy – alongside putative partners, Italy, Greece, and (the Greek-linked part) of Cyprus — with the US offering to help flesh out the structure of the ‘gas forum’ with U.S. expertise.

This is the heart of ‘the deal’. Not just political normalisation for Israel into the region, but the making of economic dependencyof the Egyptians, Palestinians, Jordanians (and possibly – but not so likely – Lebanon) on the US East-Med gas ‘hub’.

Source: McClatchy

And, inevitably there is a sub-plot to all this, (as McClatchy notes):

“On this front, the administration enjoys support from unlikely allies. Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee … said the Mediterranean gas forum project was a strategic opportunity for the U.S. to stymie Russian influence efforts over local energy resources. “I think that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Russia can’t and should not be able to control the situation,” Engel stated”.

So, the US Administration is pursuing two bipartisan congressional efforts to ‘stymie’ Russia in the region: One is a bill promoting energy partnerships in the Eastern Mediterranean; and a parallel bill which threatens to sanction European firms supporting the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline taking Russian gas into Germany.

There are however, two obvious big ‘catches’ to this notion of both ‘stymying’ Russia, whilst simultaneously normalising Israel economically into the region. The first, as Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute notes, [is the notion that] the area’s underlying geology could help Europe offset, or even replace, its dependence on Russian gas “seems farfetched at the present level of discoveries. Several more giant fields like Leviathan or Egypt’s Zohr would have to be found before this reality changes”:

“The idea that East Mediterranean energy could impact on the European energy balance in such a way as to dent Russian market share is a fantasy – Europe’s thirst for gas is so huge, and Russia’s ability to provide that gas is so great, that it’s a wild dream to even hope we can achieve it given the limited reserves discovered thus far,” Henderson said. “Hoping you can find gas is not the same as finding gas”.

In short, an Egyptian ‘hub’ serving exports, might only ‘work’, as matters stand, through patching some of the smaller East-Med discoveries – together with a large Israeli contribution – through pipelines into the two Egyptian gas liquefying plants near Port Said and Alexandria. But LNG availability globally is high, prices are hugely competitive, and it is by no means certain that ‘the hub’ can be commercially viable.

And here is the main catch: Geo-politics. Anything aimed at integrating Israel into the region is bound to be sensitive. So, whilst US officials are optimistic about Egypt’s leadership of their ‘gas forum’ in the wake of President Sisi’s April meeting with Trump – Egypt – a mainstay to the separate US Iran confrontation plan – shortly afterward the visit, rather notably withdrew from the strategic military alliance the Trump administration was trying to build to confront Iran: The Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), to the consternation of US officials.

When it comes to energy deals, however, even having a treaty with Israel does not put an end to public sensitivities about rapprochement with Israel, Henderson notes. Notwithstanding any ‘peace treaty’, many Jordanians still oppose the prospect of using (Israeli) Leviathan gas to provide for large-scale electricity generation, beginning early next year. Amman has tried to deflect such anger by calling the supplies “northern gas” or “American gas”, emphasizing Noble’s role in producing it.

But here is the other side to the issue: Clearly, Egypt does not want to be a part of any anti-Iranian US-led alliance (MESA). But equally, why should Egypt – or Jordan, or for that matter, or any other member of the ‘gas forum’ – wish to be tightly aligned with an US anti-Russian strategy for the region? Egypt may have signed up to the US ‘gas hub’ project. But at the very same time, Egypt also was signing a $2 billion contract to buy more than twenty Russian Sukhoi SU-35 fighter aircraft. Do ‘hub’ members really judge an Egyptian ‘hub’ to be a rival to Russian gas in Europe?

Probably not: For ultimately, the idea that a putative energy hub can ‘stymie Russia’ indeed is fantasy. Europe’s thirst for gas indeed is so huge, and Russia’s ability to provide that gas so great, that it is a wild dream to even think it. The EU shows, for example, no particular interest in the US supported $7 billion mooted pipeline linking the eastern Mediterranean through Cyprus, to Greece. The undersea terrain is too problematic, and the cost too high.

Israel too, hopes to find more gas (of course). But the deadline for bids on nineteen of its offshore blocks has been pushed back to mid-August – seemingly reflecting a lack of investor interest. For now, the oil majors seem more tempted by the Cypriot blocks – up for bid.

But politics again: being a part of America’s ‘gas forum’ in which the Nicosia (i.e. the Greek-linked) government is a key member, explicitly places the forum and its members on a potential collision course with Turkey, who will not readily yield on its ambitious claims on the East Med basin (it has just announced that it will establish naval and air bases in Northern Cyprus). Nor will Lebanon, either. Sisi and Erdogan share a mutual, personal dislike, but will the others wish to be drawn into that quarrel?

Russia anyway, seems not greatly interested in the production possibilities of the Mediterranean Middle East. Rather it is focused on a pipeline corridor stretching from Iran and Iraq to Europe via Turkey or (eventually) Syria.

In sum then, the Kushner – Trump ‘Deal’, in respect to the integration of Israel into the regional energy economy seems destined to draw the same skepticism and distrust, as does the ‘Deal’s’ other parts.

Lebanon Rejects US-Led Summit in Bahrain, Backs Palestinian Boycott

By Staff, Agencies

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil says his country is boycotting the forthcoming US-led conference in Bahrain in support of President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal for “peace” between the “Israeli” regime and Palestinians, dubbed the “Deal of the Century,” because Palestinians are not taking part in the event.

“We will not participate in the Bahrain conference [scheduled for June 25-26] because the Palestinians are not participating and we prefer to have a clear idea about the proposed plan for peace. We were not consulted regarding [the plan],” Bassil said on Tuesday.

The statement came after an unnamed senior White House official said Jordan, Egypt and Morocco had informed the administration they would send representatives to Manama.

The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia announced in May that they would participate in the conference.

The Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] and the Hamas resistance movement have called for an Arab boycott of the Bahrain conference.

Hamas, in a statement issued on May 20, also called on Arab countries to provide the Palestinian people with every support to confront and frustrate the US “deal of the century.”

“We are following with great concern the American announcement about holding an economic workshop next June in the Bahraini capital of Manama,” Hamas said, describing it as the first American conference in support of the so-called “Deal of the Century”.

The movement also denounced any Arab participation in adopting and executing the deal, saying any attendance in the American-led Bahrain conference would be considered a deviation from Arab and Islamic values.

Trump’s “peace plan” has already been dismissed by Palestinian authorities ahead of its unveiling at the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan and the formation of the new “Israeli” cabinet, most likely in June.

Speaking in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on April 16, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh lashed out at the initiative, asserting it was “born dead.”

Shtayyeh noted that negotiations with the US were useless in the wake of the country’s relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to al-Quds [Jerusalem], which Palestinians consider the capital city of their future state.

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Report: Saudi Arabia Tightens Grip on Palestinians, Hampers Remittances to Gaza

Report: Saudi Arabia Tightens Grip on Palestinians, Hampers Remittances to Gaza

TEHRAN (FNA)- Less than a week after Saudi authorities arrested more than 60 people, including Palestinian expatriates and Saudi nationals, on charges of supporting the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement, they have now blocked money transfers between the kingdom and the Gaza Strip.

The new step taken by the Riyadh regime against Palestinians involves official and non-official money transfers as the procedure has witnessed a marked decline over the past week and during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, Al-Khaleej Online news website reported.

The report described residents of the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip as the main victims of the move.

Most of the bank transfers that used to be carried out normally in the past, were frozen just a few days before the start of the holiday.

Remittance transactions are taking much longer time than usual – something that used to be done in a matter of few hours.

Many Palestinians have complained of the move, and termed it as “unprecedented”. They argue that the process of transferring money between Saudi Arabia and the Gaza Strip has become extraordinarily difficult.

Abu Fuad, a resident of the Gaza Strip who refused to give his last name for fear that his family could be persecuted in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah, stated that he has experienced difficulty receiving money from his family.

“It is three days since the remittance has been made, but I have not received anything. Financial transfers used to be done in a few hours and without any obstacles in the past. But since the week before the Eid, the procedures have become complex and most of the transfers are frozen without any obvious reason,” he added.

Abu Fuad considered the measure as a “new crackdown on the Palestinian community living in Saudi Arabia”, stressing that it would aggravate their sufferings as students rely heavily on money transferred from their families living outside the kingdom.

He called upon the Palestinian Embassy in Riyadh to intervene immediately, and try to work out a quick and practical solution to the crisis, which has negatively affected the Palestinian community in Saudi Arabia.

Over the past two years, Saudi authorities have deported more than 100 Palestinians from the kingdom, mostly on charges of supporting Hamas resistance movement financially, politically or through social networking sites.

The Riyadh regime has imposed strict control over Palestinian funds in Saudi Arabia since the end of 2017.

All remittances of Palestinian expatriates are being tightly controlled, fearing that these funds could be diverted indirectly and through other countries to Hamas.

Money transfer offices are asking the Palestinians to bring forward strong arguments for conversion, and do not allow the ceiling of one’s money transfer to exceed $3,000.

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