Hezbollah energy threat could send Israel back to biblical times

For a country blessed with endless sun and great technology – and obsessed with security – we’re sure acting like our decision-makers are in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry

Iran's proxies, including Hezbollah, are empowered throughout the Middle East  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran's proxies, including Hezbollah, are empowered throughout the Middle East
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With Israel’s climate conference coming up on Sunday, the cabinet was informed this week by Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz that Israel is going to increase our renewable goals by 2030 from a symbolic 17% up to a laughable 30%, thus ensuring an expensive 70% monopoly of the power sector by the gas companies for another decade and more.
This means Israel’s energy security will become more and more vulnerable, as Hezbollah missiles become more and more accurate. In fact, once the new gas rig off Zichron Ya’acov goes live later this year, Hezbollah can quickly decapitate the Israeli economy with a barrage of missiles that can easily overwhelm Iron Dome.
Steinitz, on whose watch the gas rig was approved to move from a safe distance of 200 kilometers off-shore to within missile range on our coast, undermined the solar industry when he served as Finance Minister and then effectively became the minister of gas during his two-terms as Energy and Water Minister. Incredulously, he appeared on Israeli TV to claim that no one knew until recently that burning fossil fuels was related to climate change.
But Steinitz, and our security establishment, know that when it comes to energy, Israel is about to be sent back to biblical times. Earlier this year, the threat of Hamas missiles from Gaza shut down for a day the smaller Tamar gas field, whose pumping station is a floating explosive target only 24 km. offshore. This, from Hamas’s minor-league missiles compared to Hezbollah. Furthermore, Iran, or one of its proxies, managed to shut down half of Saudi Arabia’s oil pumping with explosive drones two months ago, despite the fact that Saudi fields are the most heavily guarded in the world.
According to press reports, Hezbollah has Iranian-supplied M600 missiles, Syrian-supplied SCUD-B missiles and is working with Iran to increase the precision of their estimated 140,000 missiles. And the Iranians have submarines. Furthermore, a Russian submarine was spotted 15 km. off our shores just recently, checking out the marine protection routine. The grid, along with our power-intensive desalination plants, is toast unless we unleash the power of the sun immediately.
To add insult to injury, the government is also putting the economy in grave danger due to the fact that Israel is unprepared to treat an oil spill in case of a hit to the rigs, and there is also no compensation plan for the thousands of businesses that depend on a clean sea for their livelihood.
In 2008, the environmental community warned the government that its over-reliance on Egyptian gas could be detrimental should anything happen to the gas pipeline from Egypt. In addition to the obvious health and environmental benefits of solar, scaling solar throughout the country in a distributed network would provide energy security should anything happen to the gas supply. The government was unresponsive, smelling the Mediterranean gas that was going to come.
And then the Egyptian gas pipes were blown up in Sinai a dozen times – cutting us and Jordan off – forcing Israel to switch to super expensive and polluting mazut for several years and Jordan nearly went bankrupt paying for replacement diesel. If the country’s leadership had green-lighted the correct solar policies back then before the gas lines blew up, solar power could have filled in 100% of the day-time gap at a fraction of the cost of the mazut.

SO THE Israeli cabinet, this week still dominated by a right-wing acting government, didn’t object when notified that our solar goal by 2030 is only going to be 30%, even though Israel could be the first country by then to be powered 100% by the sun. And at a fraction of the cost of gas. When Elon Musk was in Israel last year, he told the prime minister this was do-able and economically advantageous.
And let’s be honest: Government-sponsored renewable energy goals are never kept. In fact, Israel is supposed to be at 10% renewables by 2020 and we’ll be only half that. All previous goals were ignored as well, leaving Israel to be among the worst climate actors in the OECD.
There is enough rooftop space, land within community blue-lines, unused military zones and more to accomplish the goal of 100% solar during the day extremely quickly and without spoiling open spaces. And at a fraction of the cost of gas.
The Arava next year will be powered 100% by the sun during the day – perhaps the first region in the world to accomplish that. What is true for the Arava could be true for Israel as a whole. And as storage technologies improve, our entire energy footprint could be green by 2030. What is missing is the sense of emergency by our politicians, who the day after the gas rig is blown up, will all instantly become embarrassed environmentalists.
The cabinet acquiescence this week for only a modest increase in solar power is against our national security and economic interests. For a country blessed with endless sun and great technology – and obsessed with security – we’re sure acting like our decision-makers are in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry.
Maya Jacobs serves as CEO of Zalul Environmental Association. Yosef I. Abramowitz is co-founder of the solar industries in Israel and Africa and named by CNN as one of the six leading Green Pioneers worldwide.