Tel Aviv (GPA) – At 1,248 miles long and almost 6 miles deep, this will be the longest and deepest undersea pipeline ever built. Israel hopes that becoming a major energy exporter will improve relations with current foes. How will this change the geopolitical landscape?
Israel and the European Union signed a new natural gas deal today. The proposed project will construct a pipeline running from Israel to Greece or Italy underneath the Mediterranean Sea. Israel only recently discovered the vast underwater natural gas field, Leviathan, in 2010. The pipeline will also extract from the Aphrodite gas field under the island of Cyprus. Researchers expect to find a much larger amount of gas as they continue construction and exploration.
This is only a preliminary agreement between Israel, Greece, and Cyprus. The pipeline is expected to be completed in 2025 with construction beginning in 2020; estimated cost is between $6 and $7 billion.
Europe currently only has two suppliers for natural gas: Russia and the North Sea. Experts estimate that roughly half of the North Sea’s gas reserves have already been depleted. The new pipeline will allow Europe to completely dump Russia in favor of Israel for gas– if they so please. The EU makes up a hefty majority of Russia’s gas exports.
But Israel isn’t stopping with Europe. They hope to also sign future gas deals with Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey: who currently relies on Russia for almost 3/4 of their gas supply.
Changing the Geopolitical Landscape?
Egypt and Israel already have pretty warm relations thanks to the United States– who provides Egypt with an annual aid package in return for recognizing Israel as a state and turning a blind-eye to the suffering of Palestinians.
But this could open up potential for Israel to start warming ties with Turkey. The two countries’ relations have declined over the past few decades; and Erdogan hasn’t shown any interest in giving Israel a chance. In fact as recently as November he called Israel’s behavior in Gaza barbaric. And of course thanks to the war in Syria, all world powers– including Turkey and Israel– are still at each other’s throats.
But Erdogan is everyone’s fair-weather friend. As of recently he’s been open to warming ties with Russia. Could a good deal on natural gas turn Turkey into a neutral party to Israel? Or possibly even an ally?
One thing is certain: this pipeline could give many countries a reason to turn away from allying or doing trade with Russia. It could even help Israel legitimize itself as a state. It could provide incentive for countries to turn a blind-eye to their war crimes and occupation of Palestinian land. Once finalized and construction begins, I would expect the geopolitical landscape to shift a bit– and definitely in favor of Israel.