Control over natural resources is one of the key determinants of wars it is widely believed that the conflict in gaza that erupted in may 2021 was triggered by the israeli police raid on the al-aqsa mosque in jerusalem but the real reason for hostilities between hamas and the israel defense forces could lie in energy namely natural gas in 1999.
The natural gas reserves were discovered 36 kilometers 22 miles off the gaza strip they could potentially turn palestine into a gas exporting country and bring in billions of dollars per year but how would that affect israel’s and egypt’s interests in the region and why does cairo hesitate from providing assistance to hamas .
why Egypt is not interested in helping the Palestinians and its geopolitical interests towards Palestine with israel.
Gaza Marine Gas Field
According to the united nations conference on trade and development geologists and resources economists have confirmed that the occupied palestinian territory lies above sizable reservoirs of oil and natural gas wealth in area sea of the west bank and the mediterranean coast of the gaza strip.
New discoveries of natural gas in the levant basin are in the range of 120 trillion cubic feet while recoverable oil is estimated at 1.7 billion barrels.
According to the study entitled the economic cost of occupation for the palestinian people the unrealized oil and natural gas potential.
This offers an opportunity to distribute and share about 525 billion dollars among the different parties in the region. naturally israel and egypt as the two major actors are interested in having control over the region’s energy.
In 2020 israel started exporting gas toegypt through an existing pipeline that runs offshore before crossing the north of the sinai peninsula overland.
So far exports crossing the turbulent territory by pipeline had not been affected by occasional attacks on gas infrastructure by militants operating in the area.
Egypt began to import israeli gas under an agreement by which the jewish state exports 85 billion cubic meters to cairo over the next 15 years.
In february 2021 two countries said they had agreed to plan the second pipeline that would connect israel’s offshore leviathan natural gas field to liquefied natural gas facilities in northern egypt via an underwater pipeline in order to increase gas exports to europe.
In other words the israeli egyptian agreement aims to increase gas exports to europe from the gas liquefaction facilities in egypt and therefore meet the increasing european demand for natural gas.
israel’s leviathan field is already exporting gas not only to egypt. but also to neighbouring jordan at the same time the jewish state’s exploitation of palestinian natural resources including oil and natural gas imposes on the palestinian people enormous costs that escalate as the occupation remains in effect which the unc-tad study cautioned.
So far the palestinian people have been prohibited from exploiting the oil and natural gas reserves in their own land and water to meet their energy need and generate fiscal and export revenues.
However last february palestinian officials reportedly received positive signals from israel regarding the possibility of developing the gaza marine gas field.
Following the outbreak of the palestinian intifada in late 2000 israel prevented palestinians from exploring the two fields gaza marine 1 and gaza marine 2 that were discovered by british cass which was later bought by shell.
Under an agreement signed with the palestinian authority british gas would take 60 percent of the revenues from the two fields the consolidated contractors company 30 the palestinian investment fund 10 percent.
The gaza marine gas field reserves are estimated at 32 billion cubic meters. the cost of developing the gaza marine field is estimated at 1.2 billion despite many attempts to strike a deal to open the gaza marine gas field. it is still unexploited because of several factors.
firstly the field is relatively small and the capital costs are large to develop the field from drilling additional holes to determine the size of actual reserves to building the pipelines and infrastructure to be able to bring the field into production.
Also two international gas producing companies dropped their interest in the gaza marine field because they saw it as uneconomic. both considered the risk of the project was greater than its benefits.
Still in february 2021 the palestinian investment funds signed an agreement to develop the gaza marine gas field and necessary infrastructure with the egyptian natural gas holding company egas.
the fund which is the sovereign fund of palestine said the agreement will provide palestinians needs for natural gas and the possibility of exporting part of the gas to egypt.
A top hamas member on the other hand demanded the pa disclose details of an agreement it signed with egypt gaza must present in any understandings about the gas fields on its shores tweeted musa abu mazuk from the group’s political bureau.
if gaza is forced to import natural gas from the occupation to the only power station in the strip then we should not stand by and watch and our natural resources go away.
Gaza home to 2 million palestinians is a 360 square kilometer coastal enclave that lies between egypt’s sinai peninsula and tel aviv has no access to the outside world except through israel which controls 90 percent of its land and sea boundaries and egypt which has a narrow land border to the south.
both countries have for years maintained a tight blockade of gaza citing security concerns. the gaza marine field has been seen as a way to bring the palestinian territories to energy independence.
However with hamas victory in the legislative elections in 2006 and its control of the gaza strip in 2007. israel started preventing the palestinians from benefiting from the gaza field.
although it is legally under the jurisdiction of the palestinian authority as a result of the oslo accords.
According to the economics professor of the arab american university nasa abdel karim, israel will not allow the palestinians to benefit from the gas field for economic and political reasons, israel might allow this in one case if this plan is part of a bigger project to develop gaza’s economy so that it splits from the pa and the west bank.
Professor kareem told al-monita in january 2020. indeed israel seems to have its own energy plan for gaza there is reportedly a long-term project to extend israeli gas pipelines to the gaza strip.
the pipeline would transfer 1 billion cubic meters of gas to gaza per year thus allowing the operation of a power generation station with a capacity of 400 megawatts meeting the electricity needs of the gaza strip.
the european union already committed an initial 5 million euros to fund the gaza portion of the pipeline which will run about 4 kilometers and cost around 20 million euros under the arrangement which has yet to be finalized the israeli side of the plan pipelined some 45 kilometersand cost around 70 million euros would be funded by qatar it is believed that the pipeline project would for the first time in years provide a steady energy source to the gaza strip although there are fears that the pipeline would make gaza even more dependent on israel.
Moreover it remains highly uncertain if israel is willing to take part in any of the two projects tel aviv will unlikely allow the equipment needed for developing gaza marine into the gaza strip or into the palestinian waters in the eastern mediterranean unless it is directly involved in of a gas field of the coast of gaza.
As far as the new pipeline to gaza is concerned if it ever gets built it is expected to be fully controlled by tel aviv and the israeli leadership will be able to turn off the gas tap at any time highly influential research by paul collier and k hoffler at the world bank suggests that countries whose wealth is largely dependent on the exportation of primary commodities
a category that includes both agricultural products and natural resources are highly prone to civil violence palestine is no exception the gas fields that lie under the do not conform to national borders which is why regional powers are in a rush to establish control over the energy-rich territories given that palestinians lost significant portions of their territories over the past 70 years it is very unlikely that the jewish state will allow them to control any remaining natural resources instead in the foreseeable future the israelis are expected to make lucrative deals with egypt on how to redistribute and exploit the palestinian wealth.