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Israel’s War for Gaza’s Gas

<!–Wednesday 28 November 2012[, by –>

Exclusive November 2012, by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

“It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement.”Moshe Ya’alon, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs

Over the last decade, Israel has experienced a growing energy crisis.

Between 2000 and 2010, Israel’s power consumption has risen by  3.5% annually. With over 40% of Israel’s electricity dependent on natural gas, the country has struggled to keep up with rising demand as a stable source of gas is in short supply.

As of April,  electricity prices rose by 9%, as the state-owned Israeli Electricity Company (IEC) warned that “Israelis may soon face blackouts during this summer’s heat” – which is exactly what happened.

The two major causes of the natural gas shortage were Egypt’s repeated suspension of gas supplies to Israel due to attacks on the Sinai pipeline, and the near-depletion of Israel’s offshore Tethys Sea gas fields.

By late April, a trade deal that would have continued natural gas imports from Egypt into Israel collapsed, sending the Israeli government scrambling to find alternate energy sources to meet peak electricity demands.

Without a significant boost in gas production, Israel faced the prospect of debilitating fuel price hikes which would undermine the economy.

By late June, Israel was tapping into the little known Noa gas reserve in the Mediterranean off the coast of Gaza. Previously, Israel had “refrained from ordering development of the Noa field, fearing that this would lead to diplomatic problems vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority”, according to the Israeli business daily Globes.

The Noa reserve, whose yield is about 1.2 billion cubic metres, “is partly under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority in the economic zone of the Gaza Strip” – but Houston-based operator Noble Energy apparently “convinced” Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructures that their drilling would “not spill over into other parts of the reserve.”

But the Gaza Marine gas reserves – about 32km from Gaza’s coastline – are unmistakeably  within Gaza’s territorial waters which extend to about 35km off the coast. Israeli negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) over the gas reserves have  stalled for much of the last decade since their discovery in the late 1990s by the British Gas Group (BG Group).

The main reason for the failure of negotiations was  Israel’s demand that the gas should come ashore on its territory, and at below market price.

Estimated at a total of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, the market value of the reserves is about $4 billion.

On 8th November 1999, the late Yasser Arafat signed a 25-year deal on behalf of the PA, granting 60% rights to BG Group, 30 per cent to Consolidated Contractors Company – a Palestinian private entity linked to Arafat’s PA – and finally only 10 per cent to the PA’s Palestine Investment Fund (PIF).

At first, BG Group signed a memorandum with Egypt to sell them Gaza’s gas through an undersea pipeline in 2005. But the ’man of peace’, former Prime Minister Tony Blair – official Middle East envoy of the  Quartet – intervened to pressure BG Group to instead sell the gas to Israel.

One informed British source told journalist Arthur Neslen in Tel Aviv at the time: “The UK and US, who are the major players in this deal, see it as a possible tool to improve relations between the PA and Israel. It is part of the  bargaining baggage.”

The gas would be piped directly onshore to Ashkelon in Israel, but “up to three-quarters of the $4bn of revenue raised might not even end up in Palestinian hands at all.”

The “preferred option” of the US and UK is that the gas revenues would be held in “an international bank account over which Abbas would hold sway” – effectively circumventing Hamas-controlled Gaza.

One of the first things Hamas did after winning elections was to reject the PA’s agreement with BG Group as “an act of theft”, before demanding a renegotiation of the agreed percentages to reflect its inclusion.

Operation Cast Lead launched in December 2008 was directly, though not exclusively, motivated by Israel’s  concerns about the Blair-brokered gas deal.

Upon assessing the prospects for accessing Gaza’s gas, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon – also Minister of Strategic Affairs and a former IDF Chief of Staff – advocated a year before Operation Cast Lead that the gas deal “threaten’s Israel national security” as long as Hamas remains in power.

“With Gaza currently a radical Islamic stronghold, and the West Bank in danger of becoming the next one, Israel’s funneling a billion dollars into local or international bank accounts on behalf of the Palestinian Authority would be tantamount to Israel’s bankrolling terror against itself”, Ya’alon wrote for the  Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

“It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement.”

So why Operation Pillar of Defence, and why now?

On 23rd September, Israel and the PA announced the  renewal of negotiations over development of Gaza’s gas fields. But Hamas, still in control of Gaza, stood in the way of these negotiations.

Both the PA and Tony Blair “hope to have control of the marine area and levy its own fees and taxes” in partnership with Israel, reported Offshore-technology.

Exactly a week before Israel’s assassination of Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing, Israel’s  ongoing energy crisis was in full swing, with the “cash-strapped Israel Electric Corp” – suffering from a short-fall of 1.5 billion shekels – planning to sell a total of 3 billion shekels of government-backed bonds as early as December.

Then on 12th November, the PA announced that the Palestinians would formally seek admission to the UN General Assembly as  a non-member observer state on the 29th. If granted, the status would add weight to the Palestinian bid for statehood encompassing the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem – pre-1967 territorial lines which would formally impinge on Israel’s ambitions to de facto control and unilaterally exploit Gaza’s largely untapped gas resources.

Simultaneously, Israel faced another complication from Hamas.

Israeli peace negotiator Gershon Bashkin reports that a proposal he drafted for a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas was on the verge of being accepted by senior Hamas officials, including Ahmed Jabari.

On the morning of the 14th – just two days after the PA’s announcement concerning its UN bid – a revised version was being assessed by Jabari and was due to be sent to Israel.

Hours later, Jabari was assassinated on Netanyahu’s orders.

“Senior officials in Israel knew about [Jabari’s] contacts with Hamas and Egyptian intelligence aimed at formulating the permanent truce, but nevertheless approved the assassination”, Bashkin told Ha’aretz.

With Israel facing a race for independence from the PA, and a permanent truce with Hamas, the prospects of fully exploiting Gaza’s gas resources looked slim – unless Israel could change the political and security facts on the ground through brute force. The strike on Jabari appears to have been designed precisely to provoke a response from Hamas that would justify such military action.

Indeed, Hamas has its uses.

Ya’alon’s fellow Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom once criticised Shimon Peres in a high-level Cabinet meeting back in 2001, for advocating “negotiations” with Arafat. “Between Hamas and Arafat, I prefer Hamas”, said Shalom, explaining that Arafat is a “terrorist in a diplomat’s suit, while Hamas can be hit unmercifully… there won’t be any international protests.” (Ha’aretz, 4/12/2001)

By unleashing Hamas’ rage this November, Israel was able to justify an offensive designed at least in part to begin engineering conditions conducive to its control of Gaza’s offshore gas reserves. But this is just the beginning – many analysts note that Israel is preparing the ground for a  wider military assault against Iran.

The tentative ceasefire announced on the 21st is, therefore, highly tenuous. If the ceasefire is breached, a  military ground operation is still on the cards.

With over 140 dead in Gaza, compared to five in Israel, Operation Pillar of Defence has vindicated those in Palestine who think violence against Israel is the only option left.

But then again, perhaps that’s the idea.

Breaking the Silence, Straw Widow invasion of homes

From Naomi Wolf on FB

From the Waldman article.

“My guides were a couple of Jewish Israelis, raised in religious homes, who had served as soldiers in the West Bank.

As a result of what they saw and what they did, they now devote their lives to raising awareness about the injustices of the Occupation.

My guides described in painful detail the structural inequality of a land where one ethnic group lives under oppressive military rule, and another under democratic, civilian authority.

They described receiving explicit instruction to make Palestinians feel as if they were constantly under surveillance, constantly pursued, constantly harassed.

They said their role, as described by Moshe Ya’alon, the current defense minister and former army chief of staff, was to “sear the hearts and minds of the Palestinians.”

My guides told me of instances in which they were involved in “Straw Widow” actions, where they invaded a Palestinian home, shut the family into a single room, and then made free use of the house.

Ostensibly these home invasions were conducted for security reasons, but just as often they were simple training exercises.

Sometimes the homes were chosen because they had a satellite dish, and an important soccer match was on TV.

What hope is there?” I asked them, in response.

They replied that they named their organization Breaking the Silence because they fervently believe that once people know what is happening in Hebron and the rest of the Palestinian territories, change is inevitable.”

Blatant bus racial segregation: How could it be motivated by “security” concerns?

Israel’s top legal officer has ordered Moshe Ya’alon, the country’s defence minister, to explain a decision that effectively bans Palestinian workers from travelling to their West Bank homes on the same buses as Jewish settlers.

The demand, from Yehuda Weinstein, the Attorney General, follows criticism that the move – officially justified on “security grounds” – amounted to racial segregation.

Mr Ya’alon’s order will make it illegal from December for Palestinian labourers working in Tel Aviv and central Israel from boarding the Trans-Samaria bus, which travels through the occupied West Bank to the settlement of Ariel.

Moshe Ya’alon ordered to explain ban

Decision by Israel’s defence minister has led to accusations of racial segregation despite official insistence that it is motivated by “security” concerns

The defence minister's justification contradicts the stance of the Israeli army, which has said it does not consider the Palestinian workers' presence on the buses a threat

The defence minister’s justification contradicts the stance of the Israeli army, which has said it does not consider the Palestinian workers’ presence on the buses a threat Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Instead they will have to enter the West Bank through the Eyal checkpoint, far removed from many Palestinian populations centres, and then continue on separate buses.

The defence minister’s justification contradicts the stance of the Israeli army, which has said it does not consider the Palestinian workers’ presence on the buses a threat, since only those who have been given security clearance are allowed into Israel.

Now the Attorney General’s office has asked the defence ministry to list the facts and considerations – including legal advice – that prompted Mr Ya’alon’s decision, amid criticisms that he was motivated by a desire to curry favour with settlers’ groups.

The liberal Haaretz newspaper accused him of “kowtowing” to settler opinion while giving ammunition to those who characterise Israel as an “apartheid state“.

“The minister’s decision reeks of apartheid, typical of the Israeli occupation regime in the territories,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial headlined “Welcome Aboard Israel’s Apartheid Bus”.

One of the most blatant symbols of the regime of racial separation in South Africa was the separate bus lines for whites and blacks. Now, Ya’alon has implemented the same policy in the occupied territories.”

A source in Mr Ya’alon’s office defended the move as “purely a security-related matter”. “Its purpose is to supervise the entries and exits into Israeli territory, thereby reducing the chances of terror attacks inside Israeli territory,” the source told Ha’aretz.

Israel’s transport ministry came under fire last year for introducing “Palestinian only” buses from Israel to the West Bank following complaints from settlers.

The latest controversy came as Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, hit back at international criticism of a decision to proceed with plans to build 1,060 new settlers homes in East Jerusalem, which is claimed by the Palestinians as their future capital.

The European Union and the US both condemned the move – apparently agreed in an attempt to appease pro-settler ministers in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition – as harmful to prospects for peace.

Mr Netanyahu dismissed the criticisms as “disconnected from reality”. “The EU and the US are applying a double standard when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said on a visit to the port city of Ashdod.

“When Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority] incites murder of Jews in Jerusalem, the international community remains silent. And when we build in Jerusalem, they become indignant. I don’t accept that. Just as the French build in Paris and the British build in London, Israelis build in Jerusalem.”

Dis-investment in Israel is the rage now; (September 12, 2009)

 

            The world community is no longer taking the UN seriously for applying the appropriate pressures on Israel; it is no longer taking the EU and the USA Administration seriously for exercising on Israel applicable human rights laws. Israel has been repeatedly flaunting the laws concerning human rights and the rights of the Palestinians under occupation.  Even the investigation of the atrocities that the Palestinians in Gaza suffered during the invasion from December 2008 to January 2009 is doublful that it will follow the due judicial procedures.

            The international communities of organizations, associations, and even truly democratic States are appealing to boycotting, dis-investing, and sanctioning (BDS) Israel so that it starts respecting international laws.

            Four years ago there were campaigns of boycott and dis-investments to pressure Israel to refrain from resuming building the Wall of Shame that the International Court of Justice has ruled illigal. This campaign has begun in July 2005 and is gaining fresh impetus after the genocidal war in Gaza where more than half the 1,600 victims were civilians and childrens. The entire infrastructure in Gaza was destroyed, including all the UN facilities.

            Powerful political figures and Nobel laureate for peace such as Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Jimmy Carter have considered that the practices of Israel are a reminder of the aparthide system in South Africa. The BDS campaign against Israel was relaunched during the World Social Forum in Belem (Brazil) on March 30.  The campaign is inciting the consumers not to purchase products made or grown in Israel, especially when proven that these industries are located in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.  The campaign is actively meeting with large surface owners and managers to disseminate information and intelligence as to the prohibited products.

            The Peace Cycle association is pressuring the EU to suspend the cooperation accord for tariff exemptions between Israel and the EU because Israel has failed respecting human rights and the democratic principles that was signed in 1995 and applied since 2000.  This campaign has forced 20% of Israeli exporters to lower their price because they lost substantial share of markets in Jordany, Britain, and the Scandinavian States.

            Cultural, academic, sport, and diplomatic boycotts of Israel have been recurring very often. For example, the musician Roger Waters, the authors Eduardo Galeano, Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, and the film makers Ken Loach and Jean-Luc Godard.

            Hertz refused to be associated to a promotional campaign by El Al airline; Sweden refrained from joining an international air maneuvers because Israel was participating. In Belgium, operation “Dexia out of Israel” lead 14 comunities to pressure this French-Belgium bank to stop financing Israeli collectivities located in Palestinian territories.

            The French transport companies of Alstom and Veolia are having hard time securing contracts from Scandinavian States and Britain for cooperating in transport businesses with Israel.  Other enterprises did not wait to be condemned and dis-invested in Israel; for example, Heineken re-located its affiliate Tempo Drinks from the West Bank; the same was done by the Swedish company Assa Abloy specializing in electro-mechanic security systems.

            Many States are accepting to prosecute judicial cases in human rights natures because Israel justice system has not proven to taking seriously these allegations cases.  The USA has been pressuring Spain, Belgium, and France to desist from prosecuting former Israeli Generals, officers, and ministers who committed mass killings against the Palestinians. For example, Dan Halutz, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Moshe Yaalon, Doron Almog, Giora Eiland, Michael Herzog, and Abraham Dichter have to get special permission from the Israeli cabimet of Minister to travel abroad for fear of being detained by European court of justices.

            Zionism is an ideology of the colonial and racist period; if the people of Israel want to continue adhering to that ideology then they will realize that it is bad business.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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