While the Tamar field will supply Israel’s domestic needs, the even larger gas deposits from the Leviathan field will be sold abroad starting in 2017. For the first three years, the Swiss bank UBS estimates this field will earn $3 billion a year for Israel. After that, the revenue for the gas will double to $6 billion annually, a very significant amount, making Israel an important gas exporter internationally.
“The exploration of its natural gas resources has become a strategic priority for Israel, particularly given the political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, and specifically in Egypt, which provides Israel with 40 percent of its gas-fired power needs and 20 percent of its electricity generation needs,” read the UBS report.
But it will be much more difficult for Israel to exploit offshore natural resources and increase its security if the Palestinian Authority manages to get recognition for a Palestinian state by the UN. The new state would lay an immediate legal claim to the 3.5 billion cubic meters of gas off its Gazan shore. This development would not only make Israel’s search for and use of gas deposits more problematic, it would strengthen the hand of Hamas, one of Israel’s most bitter enemies.
“Until now, Israel has always known to prevent any use of the gas deposits off Gaza, for it regards its utilization by Hamas as a threat to its national security,” writes Kalnoky.
By challenging Israel and threatening to break the Gaza blockade with its warships, Turkey obviously hopes to receive a share of those deposits from a grateful Palestinian government, much like France and Great Britain are the major recipients of oil deals in Libya for having helped the anti-Gaddafi rebels. Turkey’s insistence that Turkish Cyprus, which the Ankara government controls, receives benefits from the Greek Cypriot-Israeli gas exploration venture is also behind its opposition to that project. Turkey obviously wants a piece of the Levant Basin fields.
That is because Turkey badly needs energy resources and would probably risk war to get them. In its quest to implement its new neo-Ottoman foreign policy and become the major power in the Middle East, Turkey must challenge Iran and Israel. But these countries have oil or gas or both, the one ingredient missing in Turkey’s bid for regional dominance. Gaining a foothold in Gaza’s offshore gas fields would help level the playing field in this respect. And an internationally recognised Palestinian state that would grant Turkey this position would also help immensely. With Turkish support, further Palestinian claims to Levant Basin gas fields would be sure to follow.
So look for Turkey to send its warships with the next aid flotilla to Gaza. In contrast to its dispute with Israel and Greek Cyprus, there would be no American oil company in the way that could provoke an unwelcome confrontation with America’s Sixth Fleet. And since it is unlikely President Obama would place the Sixth Fleet between the two sides, a clash between Israel and Turkey would be highly likely with the status of regional power as the prize.
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