Israel, Once Energy-Dependent, Is New Big Gas Producer
The huge reservoirs of natural gas discovered off the coast of Israel now flowing toward shore have the potential to transform the once energy-strapped country into a lean, green manufacturing machine — capable of supplying cheap, clean energy to its citizens, factories and vehicles for a generation.
Until now bereft of the petroleum bonanza that created the modern Middle East, Israel suddenly finds itself a major player in the Mediterranean, and perhaps even the European, natural gas market.
The deepwater fields, first discovered in 2009 and 2010, will soon turn Israel into an energy exporter, putting the Jewish state in the enviable — but very tricky — position of trying to sell billions of dollars in surplus gas to neighbors who range from cool to downright hostile.
The questions are: To whom? And how?
Some Israeli leaders have suggested a “gas for peace” strategy whereby Israel, through the energy companies, provides gas at competitive rates to neighbors who want to buy.
But they also acknowledge that some Arab countries might refuse gas — at any price — coming from Israel. For years, many oil-rich Arab nations have declined to directly supply Israel with oil.
“There is an interesting cocktail of possibilities,” said Pinhas Avivi, political director of multilateral, global and strategic affairs at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. “The trick is to use the gas to solve problems, not create new problems.”