Word is that both Israel and Turkey are seriously entertaining the notion of
constructing an undersea pipeline to deliver Israeli natural gas to Turkey and,
perhaps, hence to Europe.
The Turks reportedly have expressed willingness
to foot part of the estimated $2 billion bill. Such pipelines exist elsewhere in
the world, most notably from Russia and from Norway.
It is becoming
evident that a veiled agenda underpinned the recent Turkish willingness to
consider a rapprochement with Israel. Turkey, it appears, hankers after Israeli
gas. The perceived Turkish softening was fueled by Israel’s offshore gas
discoveries, a fact which nevertheless did not impel Ankara to forgo humiliating
Turkey grows increasingly dependent on Russia for its gas
supplies. This hardly instills joy in Turkish hearts, especially considering the
fact that Moscow and Ankara are at direct loggerheads over Syria. Israel, having
repeatedly proven itself both reliable and exceedingly pliable, is now regarded
as a safer bet for Turkish gas supplies – certainly safer than such alternatives
to Russia as Iran. Moreover, Israeli gas could be had at a significantly lower
But this is not all as rosy as meets the eye. Whereas Israel is
incontrovertibly a dependable business partner, can we can count on Turkey?
Still searing are memories of our own gas purchases from Egypt. The Muslim
Brotherhood takeover in Cairo abruptly terminated this mutually beneficial deal.
There is no guarantee that Turkey would not go the same route, particularly
given its about-turn against Israel a few years ago and the festering danger
that it too might be a candidate for an even more extreme Islamic transformation
than the one it has already undergone.
In other words, the mooted
arrangement hinges almost entirely on Turkish goodwill, and that goodwill can by
no stretch of the imagination be taken for granted.
Then, as was the case
with Egypt, there is the matter of the pipeline’s security. Israel’s gas
purchases from Egypt were doomed when the Sinai pipeline was serially sabotaged.
Can a pipeline that runs parallel to the Lebanese and Syrian coasts be assumed
to be invulnerable? Last, but hardly least, is Cyprus. A deal with Turkey would
undermine cooperation already fostered with the Cypriot Greeks, whose own gas
discoveries are anathema to Ankara which occupies the northern parts of the
island. Do we really want to ditch Cyprus in favor of an unpredictable and
hardly friendly business partner? Pipelines can also be built in the Cypriot
direction and another possibility is liquefying the gas and transporting it to
Europe by tankers. It may be more expensive but this would be offset by the
removal of pipeline security concerns. Also, Cyprus has allocated land for a
liquefaction plant, which would relieve Israel of another safety
There is of course a wholly different alternative – avoiding
exports to Europe altogether and with them the undesirable competition with the
Israel can earmark its exports for the Far East, where
it can net far greater revenue. This would mean a pipeline to Eilat, a gas
liquefaction plant in the South and shipping therefrom in tankers.
short, Israel is not without export alternatives.
reinforced ties and renewed cooperation with Turkey might be, we need to resist
Turkey’s rulers are closely allied to the Muslim Brotherhood
and that bodes ill for Israel.
If approved, the gas pipeline could prove
one of Israel’s biggest-ever strategic errors.
We cannot entrust this
prized export – one that could overhaul our financial viability – to Recep
Tayyip Erdogan’s hands. The thought that he would be granted an extortionist
stranglehold over our economic future should send shivers down all our
To this must be added the question of our national honor. We
might belittle its importance, but this is not how national honor is viewed in
the Islamic world, of which Turkey is a part.
We would do much better
either by avoiding Europe as an export destination or by teaming up with non-Muslim partners who are not hostile and who need our business.