By David Isaac
“The sense of ‘dependence’ on the United States has time and again sapped the will of Israeli leaders and dictated to them a retreat from positions long and sincerely held, an abandonment of tested national, and rational, axioms basic to Israel’s security,” wrote Shmuel Katz in “Purse String Tangles” (November 12, 1982).
Shmuel often wrote about the pernicious effects of Israel’s sense of dependence on the United States. He would have been delighted to hear about the recent natural gas discoveries off Israel’s coast, which are poised to make Israel energy independent.
Last month, an enormous natural gas field aptly named ‘Leviathan’ was discovered off the coast of Israel by an energy consortium led by an Israeli billionaire. The field contains an estimated 15 trillion cubic feet of gas.
The find follows closely the discovery of another field named ‘Tamar,’ one estimated at 8.4 trillion cubic feet. Uzi Landau, Minister of National Infrastructure said that field alone could “supply all our needs for the next 50 to 70 years.”
But it’s the Leviathan field, 6.5 times the size of Tel Aviv and double the size of the Tamar prospect, that has everyone talking and will position Israel as a gas exporter.
The sea gave Israel a great deal of trouble recently in the form of the Turkish-sponsored flotilla. Happily, the sea is making up for it. Until now, Israel was facing a looming energy crisis as its fast-growing population was putting pressure on its supply. Israel’s options were limited, with perhaps the best being a joint project to construct a subsea pipeline with Turkey. Chances for that sunk after the flotilla incident.
As Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, explains in a recent column, “This discovery may provide Israel with security in terms of its supply of electricity, turn it into an important natural gas exporter and provide a shot in the arm of some $300 billion over the life of the field – one-and-a-half times the national GDP – to the Israeli economy, already one of the most resilient in the world.”
Luft suggests that Israel could create an energy corridor linking Israel to the Indian sub-continent. “Ironically, the biggest casualty of such an energy corridor will be none other than Turkey, which now enjoys an unchallenged status as an energy bridge between East and West. Energy transit fees are an important source of income to the Turkish economy,” Luft writes.
This would have been music to Shmuel’s ears.
On the other hand, why export it at all? Israel is not a poor or unproductive country. They don’t need the money. Let it supply Israel’s needs forever. Remember what happened to the Sinai oil fields. Notice that the Palestinian movement aside from ideology arose just when Israel became worth stealing again due to Jewish investements.
Export means foreign partnerships, foreign contracts, foreign installations, foreign involvements, foreign politics and ultimately foreign takeovers.
It will mean Israeli laziness and dependence on those foreign involvements, and the degeneration of the productive segments of the economy. Look at what is happening to the Arabs who have no backup plan for their economy when the oil runs out.
The ideal description of an Israel economy is the vine-and-fig-tree, not the heaping up of wealth whose political and monetary value can be manipulated. Israel has to own and trade in things one can eat and wear and live in and build with and their productive sources. Near-free energy can fuel those other things.