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War and Natural Gas: Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields.

War and Natural Gas:

The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields

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.

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).

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12 COMMENTS

    • It is a religious fantasy land. The idea that someone who’s family has lived in Europe for a thousand years has a right to live there, because someone of a similar religion lived there 3000 years ago according to a book of fables they wrote, but some one who’s family has lived in Israel for centuries born and bred doesn’t – is absurd and only appeals to fanatics.

      That said – I 100% support Israel in 2023 and want to see them take over Gaza permanently. That is best for the Palestinians and for the Israelis. The idea of punishing people for the sins of their fathers is what has made the Middle East a shit hole.

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  1. Interesting. Modern Israel came into existence through a massive exercise of colonialism, and has put the previous people living there in a 70 year long concentration camp. Look up Nakba. A lot of Israelis do not support Bibi’s latest move, and the worlds opinion has turned, despite their buying 95% of MSM. NZ’s “right” media seems an offshoot of Rebel media, totally controlled. The calls to invade a rubbled urban hellscape will be a bloody nose for the IDF, hence the “pause”.

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    • Every muslim country in the world “came into existence through a massive exercise of colonialism”, let’s not forget. Invasion and conquest are how the toxic garbage of Islam has spread across the planet. Cry me a river for the Palestinians.

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    • Modern Israel came into existence through a massive exercise of colonialism

      Wrong. As a result of their defeat in WW1, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) lost the province of Palestine, which they had held for 400 years. There was never a country called ‘Palestine’; it was a province in somebody else’s empire and the name probably originated with the Philistines, a tribe of nomads in the area who were constantly in conflict with the Israelites. In 1920 Britain was given a mandate by the League Of Nations to administer the province with the EXPRESS AIM of eventually creating a self governing independent state, which they finally did in May1948.

      Between the establishment of the British Mandate in 1920 up until 1948, Britain was trying to establish the basic foundations of a democracy, but these efforts were being frustrated by terrorist acts and unrest by both the Arabs and also the Jews, especially heightened by the increasing influx of Jews fleeing persecution and genocide in Europe (mainly Soviet Russia and then Nazi Germany.

      The British Mandate was never a ‘colonial’ enterprise at all. It was always in the plan (and understood by the League Of Nations and then the United Nations, that a democratic country was to be established there. In fact, the State of Israel was scheduled to be established well before the actual event in May 1948, but this was delayed by the introduction of Martial Law following the surprise terrorist attack by Irgun on the British Officers’ club in March 1947 – outrageously on the Sabbath – in which, incidentally, my father was killed.

      The British were probably highly relieved to get out of ‘Palestine’ in 1948 as their Mandate had devolved from an international duty of care into a terrorist hellhole. As it happened, when the British left they had successfully established the foundations for a functioning democratic state run by a parliament and the rule of law. This was quite the opposite of what the Arabs wanted and they promptly attacked Israel only a couple of weeks after it was created. And the story continues to this day.

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      • You forgot the Balfour declaration in 1917
        The Balfour Declaration was a public statement issued by the British government in 1917 during the First World War announcing its support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a small minority Jewish population. The declaration was contained in a letter dated 2 November 1917 from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. The text of the declaration was published in the press on 9 November 1917.
        Another example of Sowing the Wind , then Reaping the Whirlwind

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  2. This article is the biggest load of shite.

    Israel took Gaza as a result of the Six Day War – an unprovoked attack by multiple Muslim nations in an attempt to destroy Israel in its infancy. It is “spoils of war”, and the Israelis are under NO obligation to return it or allow autonomous rule, in my opinion. The dumbarse Muslims started trouble and lost – and like typical Muslims have played the victim card to the hilt ever since.

    The Israelis subsequently gave Gaza autonomy, but were forced to invade in 2008 as a result of more Muslim aggression.

    The Israelis have shown infinitely more restraint and compassion than I ever would have.

    This piece is just more apologising for Islam, ultimately.

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