War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research, February 28, 2020

Global Research 8 January 2009

Eleven years ago, Israel invaded Gaza under “Operation Cast Lead”.

The following article was first published by Global Research in January 2009 at the height of the Israeli bombing and invasion under Operation Cast Lead.

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Author’s Note and Update

The purpose of Operation Cast Led was to confiscate Palestine’s maritime natural gas reserves. In the wake of the invasion, Palestinian gas fields were de facto confiscated by Israel in derogation of international law.

A year following “Operation Cast Lead”,  Tel Aviv announced the discovery of  the Leviathan natural gas field in the Eastern Mediterranean “off the coast of Israel.”

At the time the gas field was: “ … the most prominent field ever found in the sub-explored area of the Levantine Basin, which covers about 83,000 square kilometres of the eastern Mediterranean region.” (i)

Coupled with Tamar field, in the same location, discovered in 2009, the prospects are for an energy bonanza for Israel, for Houston, Texas based Noble Energy and partners Delek Drilling, Avner Oil Exploration and Ratio Oil Exploration. (See Felicity Arbuthnot, Israel: Gas, Oil and Trouble in the Levant, Global Research, December 30, 2013

The Gazan gas fields are part of the broader Levant assessment area.

What has been unfolding is the integration of these adjoining gas fields including those belonging to Palestine into the orbit of Israel. (see map below).

It should be noted that the entire Eastern Mediterranean coastline extending from Egypt’s Sinai to Syria constitutes an area encompassing large gas as well as oil reserves.

While the debate regarding  Trump’s “Deal of the Century” has largely concentrated on the de facto annexation of the Jordan Valley and the integration and extension of  Jewish settlements, the issue of the de facto confiscation and ownership of  Palestine’s offshore gas reserves have not been challenged.

Michel Chossudovsky, February 28, 2020


War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields

by Michel Chossudovsky

January 8, 2009

The December 2008 military invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israeli Forces bears a direct relation to the control and ownership of strategic offshore gas reserves. 

This is a war of conquest. Discovered in 2000, there are extensive gas reserves off the Gaza coastline. 

British Gas (BG Group) and its partner, the Athens based Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) owned by Lebanon’s Sabbagh and Koury families, were granted oil and gas exploration rights in a 25 year agreement signed in November 1999 with the Palestinian Authority.

The rights to the offshore gas field are respectively British Gas (60 percent); Consolidated Contractors (CCC) (30 percent); and the Investment Fund of the Palestinian Authority (10 percent). (Haaretz, October 21,  2007).

The PA-BG-CCC agreement includes field development and the construction of a gas pipeline.(Middle East Economic Digest, Jan 5, 2001).

The BG licence covers the entire Gazan offshore marine area, which is contiguous to several Israeli offshore gas facilities. (See Map below). It should be noted that 60 percent of the gas reserves along the Gaza-Israel coastline belong to Palestine.

The BG Group drilled two wells in 2000: Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2. Reserves are estimated by British Gas to be of the order of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, valued at approximately 4 billion dollars. These are the figures made public by British Gas. The size of Palestine’s gas reserves could be much larger.Will Israel’s Gas Hopes Come True? Accused of Stealing Gas from the Gaza Strip


Map 1

Map 2

Who Owns the Gas Fields

The issue of sovereignty over Gaza’s gas fields is crucial. From a legal standpoint, the gas reserves belong to Palestine.

The death of Yasser Arafat, the election of the Hamas government and the ruin of the Palestinian Authority have enabled Israel to establish de facto control over Gaza’s offshore gas reserves.

British Gas (BG Group) has been dealing with the Tel Aviv government. In turn, the Hamas government has been bypassed in regards to exploration and development rights over the gas fields.

The election of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 was a major turning point. Palestine’s sovereignty over the offshore gas fields was challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court. Sharon stated unequivocally that “Israel would never buy gas from Palestine” intimating that Gaza’s offshore gas reserves belong to Israel.

In 2003, Ariel Sharon, vetoed an initial deal, which would allow British Gas to supply Israel with natural gas from Gaza’s offshore wells. (The Independent, August 19, 2003)

The election victory of Hamas in 2006 was conducive to the demise of the Palestinian Authority, which became confined to the West Bank, under the proxy regime of Mahmoud Abbas.

In 2006, British Gas “was close to signing a deal to pump the gas to Egypt.” (Times, May, 23, 2007). According to reports, British Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened on behalf of Israel with a view to shunting the agreement with Egypt.

The following year, in May 2007, the Israeli Cabinet approved a proposal by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert  “to buy gas from the Palestinian Authority.” The proposed contract was for $4 billion, with profits of the order of $2 billion of which one billion was to go the Palestinians.

Tel Aviv, however, had no intention on sharing the revenues with Palestine. An Israeli team of negotiators was set up by the Israeli Cabinet to thrash out a deal with the BG Group, bypassing both the Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority:

Israeli defence authorities want the Palestinians to be paid in goods and services and insist that no money go to the Hamas-controlled Government.” (Ibid, emphasis added)

The objective was essentially to nullify the contract signed in 1999 between the BG Group and the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat.

Under the proposed 2007 agreement with BG, Palestinian gas from Gaza’s offshore wells was to be channeled by an undersea pipeline to the Israeli seaport of Ashkelon, thereby transferring control over the sale of the natural gas to Israel.

The deal fell through. The negotiations were suspended:

 “Mossad Chief Meir Dagan opposed the transaction on security grounds, that the proceeds would fund terror”. (Member of Knesset Gilad Erdan, Address to the Knesset on “The Intention of Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Purchase Gas from the Palestinians When Payment Will Serve Hamas,” March 1, 2006, quoted in Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon, Does the Prospective Purchase of British Gas from Gaza’s Coastal Waters Threaten Israel’s National Security?  Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, October 2007)

Israel’s intent was to foreclose the possibility that royalties be paid to the Palestinians. In December 2007, The BG Group withdrew from the negotiations with Israel and in January 2008 they closed their office in Israel.(BG website).

Invasion Plan on The Drawing Board

The invasion plan of the Gaza Strip under “Operation Cast Lead” was set in motion in June 2008, according to Israeli military sources:

“Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago [June or before June] , even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.”(Barak Ravid, Operation “Cast Lead”: Israeli Air Force strike followed months of planning, Haaretz, December 27, 2008)

That very same month, the Israeli authorities contacted British Gas, with a view to resuming crucial negotiations pertaining to the purchase of Gaza’s natural gas:

“Both Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler agreed to inform BG of Israel’s wish to renew the talks.

The sources added that BG has not yet officially responded to Israel’s request, but that company executives would probably come to Israel in a few weeks to hold talks with government officials.” (Globes online- Israel’s Business Arena, June 23, 2008)

The decision to speed up negotiations with British Gas (BG Group) coincided, chronologically, with the planning of the invasion of Gaza initiated in June. It would appear that Israel was anxious to reach an agreement with the BG Group prior to the invasion, which was already in an advanced planning stage.

Moreover, these negotiations with British Gas were conducted by the Ehud Olmert government with the knowledge that a military invasion was on the drawing board. In all likelihood, a new “post war” political-territorial arrangement for the Gaza strip was also being contemplated by the Israeli government.

In fact, negotiations between British Gas and Israeli officials were ongoing in October 2008, 2-3 months prior to the commencement of the bombings on December 27th.

In November 2008, the Israeli Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Infrastructures instructed Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to enter into negotiations with British Gas, on the purchase of natural gas from the BG’s offshore concession in Gaza. (Globes, November 13, 2008)

“Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler wrote to IEC CEO Amos Lasker recently, informing him of the government’s decision to allow negotiations to go forward, in line with the framework proposal it approved earlier this year.

The IEC board, headed by chairman Moti Friedman, approved the principles of the framework proposal a few weeks ago. The talks with BG Group will begin once the board approves the exemption from a tender.” (Globes Nov. 13, 2008)

Gaza and Energy Geopolitics 

The military occupation of Gaza is intent upon transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel in violation of international law.

What can we expect in the wake of the invasion?

What is the intent of Israel with regard to Palestine’s Natural Gas reserves?

A new territorial arrangement, with the stationing of Israeli and/or “peacekeeping” troops?

The militarization of the entire Gaza coastline, which is strategic for Israel?

The outright confiscation of Palestinian gas fields and the unilateral declaration of Israeli sovereignty over Gaza’s maritime areas?

If this were to occur, the Gaza gas fields would be integrated into Israel’s offshore installations, which are contiguous to those of the Gaza Strip. (See Map 1 above).

These various offshore installations are also linked up to Israel’s energy transport corridor, extending from the port of Eilat, which is an oil pipeline terminal, on the Red Sea to the seaport – pipeline terminal at Ashkelon, and northwards to Haifa, and eventually linking up through a proposed Israeli-Turkish pipeline with the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

Ceyhan is the terminal of the Baku, Tblisi Ceyhan Trans Caspian pipeline. “What is envisaged is to link the BTC pipeline to the Trans-Israel Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, also known as Israel’s Tipline.” (See Michel Chossudovsky, The War on Lebanon and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, July 23, 2006)


Map 3The original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2020


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«شرق أوسط جديد» صُنع في إيران و«إسرائيل» تلفظ أنفاسها الأخيرة..!

محمد صادق الحسيني

مع كلّ يوم يمرّ على «أزعر الحارة» يتبيّن للرأي العام الإقليمي والعالمي مدى هشاشة رئيس عصابة تل أبيب ورهطه في الكيان الغاصب وإليكم علامات السقوط:

1

ـ أدلى المتهم بتلقي الرشا والخيانة العظمى، زعيم العصابة الحاكمة في تل أبيب بتصريح خلال جلسة حكومته المستقيلة أمس، ادّعى فيه أنه أحرز انتصاراً استراتيجياً ونجح في تشكيل حلف في شرق المتوسط يمتدّ الى الدول العربية….!

وزادنا من الشعر بيتاً عندما قال:

إنّ بدء تصدير «إسرائيل» للغاز الفلسطيني المسروق الى مصر، يُعتبر نصراً ديبلوماسياً واقتصادياً له يقارب الخيال، ونسيَ، وهو في لحظة فقدان التوازن هذه، أنه يقوم بسرقة موثقة بكلّ أشكال التوثيق، الصوتي والورقي والتلفزيوني وغير ذلك، وأنّ هذه السرقة، بالتعاون مع جهات معينة في شرق المتوسط، لم تحوّل «إسرائيل» الى دولة عظمى كما ادّعى نتن ياهو في التصريح نفسه….!

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نقول ذلك لانّ نتنياهو يكذب على مستوطنيه، سواء أولئك الذين يحتلون 1948 أو القادمين الجدد الى بقية فلسطين التي احتلت عام 1967، وذلك عندما يدّعي ما ذكرناه آنفاً. وهو يعرف تماماً أنّ «انتصاراته» هذه ليست أكثر من قنابل دخانية لا تقدّم ولا تؤخّر في موازين القوى الميدانية في المنطقة.

ويكفي، في هذا المقام، أن نذكّره بانتصارات سيده في البيت الأبيض، الذي أعلن عنها مراراً، ولكنه عجز عن اكتشاف أو إسقاط الصواريخ والمسيَّرات اليمنية، التي ضربت شركة أرامكو السعودية الأميركية (وهي بالمناسبة شركة أميركية سعودية وليست سعودية فقط. وهذا ما يدلل عليه اسم الشركةAramco أيّArab American Company) ) وهذا يعني انّ الصواريخ اليمنية قد ضربت آنذاك أصولاً أميركية أيضاً وليس فقط أصولاً سعودية، في 14/9/2019. علماً انّ الأهداف التي تمّ تدميرها لا تبعد عن مقرّ القيادة العامة للأسطول الخامس الأميركي، في البحرين، سوى 42 كلم فقط. كما فشل الجيش الأميركي باكتشاف أو إسقاط أي من الصواريخ الإيرانية الثقيلة التي ضربت أكبر قاعدة أميركية في العراق، فجر يوم 8/1/2020، وأحدثت دماراً هائلاً فيها أخرجها من الخدمة، الرادارات ومحطات التنصّت والتجسّس والقيادة والسيطرة، بحسب اعترافات ضباط كبار في القاعدة نفسها.

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فعلياً يفهم هذا «الطاووس» الأعمى معاني وأبعاد عمليات القصف الصاروخي، المذكورة أعلاه، وما رافقها من عمليات مناورة وإعماء إلكتروني، يمنية أولاً ثم إيرانية، لمنظومات الدفاع الجوي الأميركية ووسائل الحرب الالكترونية الاميركية ذات الإمكانيات التي تفوق إمكانيات نتنياهو بآلاف المرات؟
وهل يفهم هذا الكذاب المحترف انّ قوات حلف المقاومة قادرة على وضع «بلاطة» إعماء إلكتروني على «دولته العظمى» هذه، عندما يحين التوقيت اللازم؟ وهل يستوعب هذا المتعجرف الفارغ ما يعنيه الإعماء الإلكتروني الكامل؟ إنه يعني الشلل الكامل لكلّ شيء في دولته. سيتوقف كلّ شيء عن الحركة، بدءاً بمحطات الكهرباء والمياه ومروراً بالطائرات والمطارات وصولاً الى سلاحه النووي الذي يعتقد أنّ بإمكانه ان يوفر وسيلة الردع الاستراتيجي والمنقذ الأعلى لكيانه.

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وللتأكيد على ذلك لا بدّ من تذكيره بما تعرّض له مطار اللد (تل أبيب) قبل أشهر من عمليات تشويش إلكتروني واسعة النطاق أثرت بشكل كبير على حركة الطيران فيه وكذلك على منشآت إسرائيلية أخرى بالقرب منه. وقد كان من بين أهمّ تلك المنشآت التي تأثرت بعمليات التشويش مجمع شركات الصناعات العسكرية الإسرائيلية الموجودة في حرم المطار ووزارة الحرب الإسرائيلية التي لا تبعد عنه أكثر من عشرة كيلومترات.

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أما خلاصة كلّ هذه التطورات فيمكن اختصارها في جملة واحدة هي:
لقد انتصر حزب الله على «إسرائيل» في الحرب التي ستقع أو التي قد تحقق تحرير فلسطين حتى دون أن تقع.

كيف؟

لن يكون نتنياهو، نصّاب «دولة إسرائيل العظمى»، وجيشه أكثر قدرة من الجيش الأميركي، على مواجهة الصواريخ الإيرانية المنشأ الدقيقة، سواء أكانت تطلقها أيادٍ يمنية أم إيرانية أم لبنانية. إنه يعرف تماماً انّ جيشه عاجز عن كشف صواريخ حزب الله أو ضرب مواقعها، المقامة في باطن الأرض وعلى أعماق كبيرة جداً. الأمر الذي يجعل قيادة حلف المقاومة تنتقل من مرحلة الاستعداد لشنّ الفصل الأخير من هجومها الاستراتيجي الى مرحلة إدارة عودة اللاجئين الفلسطينيين إلى ديارهم بعد زوال الكيان الإسرائيلي. أيّ انّ ما يتمّ التخطيط له والعمل على تحقيقه، من قبل قيادة قوات المقاومة، هو إعادة إسكان الشعب الفلسطيني في أرضه فلسطين، ومن النهر إلى البحر.

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فكما قالت صحيفة «أميركان هيرالد تريبيون» على موقعها الالكتروني بتاريخ 12/1/2020 وبقلم الكاتب الييّا مانغيير فإنّ شرق أوسط جديداً، صُنع في إيران، على وشك الولادة.
وهو ما يحتِّم على نتنياهو وغيره من قادة «إسرائيل» ان يصحوا من غيبوبتهم الاستراتيجية وأن يفهموا أنّ دورهم الوظيفي قد انتهى وأنّ عليهم أن يبدأوا بتفكيك كيانهم وإعادة مستوطنيهم الى بلدان المنشأ الأصلية. فلن تنفعهم لا اتفاقيات تصدير الغاز الى الأردن ولا إلى مصر ولن ينفعهم أيّ تحالف هلامي يتوهّمون وجوده، سواء في شرق المتوسط او غربه، وذلك لأنّ شعوب العالمين الإسلامي والعربي ترفض سياسات سماسرة بعض الأنظمة العربية العميلة ولا ترضى بأقلّ من تحرير فلسطين كاملة.

ما يعني أنّ الكيان الإسرائيلي الذي خططوا له يوماً أن يكون دولة عظمى من الفرات الى النيل صار محاصراً في مربع صغير لا يتجاوز عرضه وطوله 40 بـ 80 كيلومتراً كحدّ أعلى وهو محاط من جهات ثلاث بأعداء من نوع الخطر الوجودي والمنفذ الوحيد المتبقي أمامه هو السباحة بحراً الى أوروبا قبل أن يلفظ أنفاسه الأخيرة…!

هي السنن الكونية التي لا تبديل لها.

بعدنا طيّبين، قولوا الله…

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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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