Original Thinking: The Israel-Europe pipeline— a strategic umbilical cord

The project will be known as the East Med Pipeline Project. Natural gas will flow from Israel’s Leviathan offshore gas reservoir via Cyprus, Crete and Greece to reach its terminal.

December 9, 2018 21:36
3 minute read.
THE mammoth Leviathan natural gas pipeline-in-progress.

THE mammoth Leviathan natural gas pipeline-in-progress.. (photo credit: COURTESY OF NOBLE ENERGY)


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After two years in intense negotiations, shadowed by on-off parallel talks with Turkey, Israel has agreed with European nations to supply the European Union with its future natural gas needs. The project will turn Israel into a significant fuel-exporting nation.

It is expected that the official signing will take place at a very public event some time in February 2019.

It will take a year to put the financing in place. Then construction will begin on the longest and deepest underwater fuel pipeline in the world. Some 2,100 kilometers in length and lying three kilometers under the Mediterranean Sea. The $7 billion project will take five years to complete but could be in place and ready to pump even sooner.

Credit must go to Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz, who first proposed the project at a conference in the unlikely location of Abu Dhabi two years ago. The United Arab Emirates have already invested $100 million in the project. Rarely discussed, this is a covert cornerstone underpinning the change in relationship between parts of the Arab world and the Jewish State.

It has been agreed that the financing will be operated through IGI Poseidon, a subsidiary of the French company, Edison, which was involved with the engineering feasibility studies and tests for this challenging project.

The project will be known as the East Med Pipeline Project. Natural gas will flow from Israel’s Leviathan offshore gas reservoir via Cyprus, Crete and Greece to reach its terminal at Otranto on the southeast heel of Italy, 100 kilometers south of Brindisi. This multinational pipeline will supply Europe with 125 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually by 2030.

After careful strategic deliberations, Israel decided on the Cyprus-Greece-Italy connection to Europe than through the Turkish route. One factor in the decision was the political behavior of Turkish President Tayip Erdogan toward the Jewish State. The decision has been received poorly by the Turks, who were quick to sign an alternative agreement with Russia for the construction of a rival TurkStream pipeline for the delivery of Russian natural gas to Turkey.

The Israeli decision may be the reason for recent provocative statements made by the Kremlin against Israel, but Israel has chosen the direct European route for important strategic, as well as economic, reasons.

The Israeli gas will be a valuable additional supply to Russia’s Gazprom, which will remain the major natural gas supplier to Europe.

As former Greek Deputy Minister, Demitri Dollis, said during the negotiations, “The EU will prefer the Israeli pipeline over the TurkStream project because EU countries are involved (in the Israeli project). Also, since Europe already relies heavily on Russian gas, the project is of top geopolitical importance to Israel, Greece and Europe, and for this reason, is backed by the United States.”
With the investment from the UAE and the approval of the United States, the political umbrella for this Israel-EU project is significantly wide with unique and positive potential for future stabilization and further commercial and strategic joint interests.

Greece will hold strategic talks in Washington with the Trump administration on December 13 before heading to Jerusalem for talks with the Israeli government. As Dollis said when the new pipeline had been agreed, “Energy and security will work to the benefit not only of Israel but for the people of Europe. It will lead to the stability of governments, stability of energy prices, stability in the energy markets.”

When the fuel starts flowing, it will certainly improve the relationship between the EU and Israel.

The writer is the senior associate for public diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

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