Redrawing Europe’s energy map will fuel multifaceted benefits for Israel’s future

The $7 billion Israeli-Greek-Cypriot EastMed pipeline has the potential to forge Israel’s presence as an energy provider to Europe.

AFTER the signing of the Contract of the Century in the mid-’90s, oil wells received a new energy infusion. HEYDAR ALIYEV (photo credit: AZERTAC)
AFTER the signing of the Contract of the Century in the mid-’90s, oil wells received a new energy infusion. HEYDAR ALIYEV
(photo credit: AZERTAC)
As the recent drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities as well as ongoing US-Iran tensions threaten the stability of energy markets worldwide, the opposite trend is taking hold in Israel, a nation that has long grappled with the challenges of being surrounded by hostile oil-rich neighbors.
The once-unthinkable notion of Israeli gas exports to Egypt is on the verge of becoming a reality following an agreement reached this month that enables the East Mediterranean Gas Company to operate Europe Asia Pipeline Co.’s coastal terminal in Ashkelon. At the same time, the $7 billion Israeli-Greek-Cypriot EastMed pipeline has the potential to forge Israel’s presence as an energy provider to Europe.
Yet a different pipeline project which is rarely mentioned in the same breath as Israel carries a dual promise – propping up the Israeli economy while bolstering the Jewish state’s long-term security, with or without Israel’s direct participation in the initiative.
Though Israel has yet to sign onto the project, the Azerbaijan-led Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) should be squarely on the nation’s radar as it looks to expand its influence economically. SGC’s scope is staggering. Spanning 2,200 miles (3,540 km.) across seven countries and connecting three linked pipelines, the $41.5b. project will reshape the geopolitical landscape of European energy consumption.
Continuing the geopolitical revolution ignited by the so-called “Contract of the Century” signed 25 years ago this month between 11 international oil companies representing seven countries, SGC seeks to diversify Europe’s energy supply by diminishing dependence on Russia. The Azerbaijani-Turkish component of SGC was completed in July, making both nations ready to export gas to Europe.
Questions remain about whether Israel has a direct role to play in SGC. Some have argued that the possibility of Israeli participation in the gas corridor is something of a “distant hope” given the inherent economic complications, while others have emphasized the immense potential of Israel amplifying its gas ties with Turkey and by extension, Europe.
“The option of [Israel] exporting gas to Turkey seems to me still the most viable, as it not only gives access to a growing market but also will be an option to bring it to Europe,” said Cyril Widdershoven, a Middle East geopolitical specialist and energy analyst with the Dutch risk consultancy VEROCY. “The main issues here still to be solved will be the costs and technical challenges of a deep-water subsea gas pipeline, which will be staggering.”
THERE APPEARS to be a natural foundation for Israeli collaboration with SGC, given that Israel already imports 40% of its natural gas from Azerbaijan. Experts like Widdershoven have floated the possibility of Israel’s potential gas sales to the thirsty European energy market flowing through SGC, despite the financial and logistical hurdles.
With the source of Israel’s gas lying deep under water, energy exports will always be rife with challenges. Nevertheless, the benefits of Israel exporting gas to Europe are too large to ignore. Capitalizing on Israel’s limited natural resources is a worthy challenge for the ever-ambitious Start-Up Nation and its partners.
The importance of Europe not being beholden to Russian energy resources also cannot be understated. Although the mainstream media has spilled much ink on castigating US President Donald Trump’s supposed “bromance” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump recently championed SGC in two separate letters to Azerbaijan’s president. While Trump did not mention Russia by name, the letters indicate his administration’s nuanced understanding that European energy dependence on Russia is not in the best interest of America, Israel and their allies.
Commerce associated with Russian energy trade will continue to buttress Bashar Assad’s dictatorial rule and war efforts in Syria. The fact that Trump has been aggressively trying to weaken Assad in the Syrian Civil War further illustrates the absurdity of how the mainstream media and the Mueller Report have painted Trump as a Russian stooge. In reality, Trump is fighting an under-the-radar proxy war with Russia in Syria.
For Israel, the chief concern that continually hovers over Russia’s military presence in Syria is that Moscow maintains relationships with Israel’s enemies in the region – Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.
In fact, some experts have suggested that Iran’s regional aggression has been inspired by Russia’s own “hybrid warfare” tactics. While Israel coordinates security mechanisms with Moscow to avoid tension over the Russian military presence in Syria, the Jewish state must continue to be wary of Russia’s regional behavior. A potential end to Russian energy dominance serves to keep the Kremlin in check – including by decreasing its capability to scatter funds across the Middle East and into the hands of America’s and Israel’s mortal enemies.
Therefore, regardless of the prospects for Israel’s direct or indirect involvement in SGC, redrawing Europe’s energy map is naturally beneficial for the Jewish state’s future.
The writer is an author and journalist. His memoir and social critique, The Egotist, has been translated into five languages. His work has been featured in The Daily Caller, MSN and The Huffington Post. His book of articles, Tikkunim (Corrections), was released in January 2018.