Insight: Israel Gas Finds Launch Navy Into Troubled Waters
When Israeli economists contemplate their country’s untapped natural gas finds far out in the Mediterranean, they dream of energy independence and lucrative export deals.
Those charged with Israel’s defense, however, worry that the navy - small and long a middling priority in budgets - may be hard put to protect the multinational drilling platforms and rigs out at sea.
“We will do our best, but without a major boost to our capabilities, our best will not be enough,” a senior military planner said in one of a series of Reuters interviews with Israeli decision-makers on the subject.
That all spoke on condition of anonymity indicates concern that such doubts over security might scare off investors and, perhaps, even encourage sea-borne attacks by Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese guerrilla movement hostile to Israel and to its exploration of gas fields also claimed by Beirut.
There are internal political considerations, too. With Middle East instability spiraling, Israel’s Finance Ministry is poring over an unwieldy plan for fiscal cuts combined with new spending on national security. The navy is lobbying for cash but is loath to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly.