In Europe, Israel is vilified in parts of the press, the trades unions and the churches, but government and industry are often better informed and more concerned for national interests in working with Israel. The discovery of Israeli gas and oil shifts the balance toward the latter. The horrendous behavior of the existing Gulf states allows us to imagine the extremes to which Israel could now indulge itself, although one hopes it will not.
It is a longstanding complaint that Israel is unfairly harassed in those international forums that deal with human rights. On the other hand, countries that are too big to harass, such as Russian and China, or that are oil rich, such as the Gulf states, get away with anything. Well, here’s news: Now that Israel has discovered vast offshore deposits of natural gas and even some oil, it can aspire to the status of aGulf state. Not quite geographically, but in terms of the scruples that others can brush aside in their eagerness to do business.
This applies above all to the European Union (EU). According to a recent report, “Valeria Termini, vice president of the Council of European Energy Regulators, has held talks with senior Israeli Energy and Water Ministry officials” on the proposal to link Israel’s natural gas fields to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline. The EU would benefit from reduced dependence on Russian natural gas, while the cost to Israel of marketing the gas would be greatly reduced, since there would be no need to liquefy the natural gas (LNG) and ship it on tankers. “An LNG terminal is estimated to cost between $7 billion to $10 billion while a pipeline to the European network can be built for $2 billion-$3 billion.”
Yet Israel is not putting all its gas eggs in the EU basket. Another report tells us: “In July 2012 President Vladimir Putin visited Israel, largely to discuss the gas fields. The Russian Gazprom has signed a deal with Israel on the future distribution of the large Israel gas resources, and plans to build a floating facility off Cyprus to convert the product to LNG.” The reason given was that the civil war in Syria has frustrated an earlier Gazprom project to pump gas from Iran to the Lebanese coast. In other words, Israel is being courted by both Russia and the EU and can choose what to award to either of those suitors. “Human rights” issues are off that agenda.
Now, there has been a lot of fluttering of feathers over the recently publicized EU guidelines on Jewish settlements across the “green line.” We shall turn to that in amoment, but it should not distract our attention from a series of remarkably friendly gestures toward Israel, emanating from Europe in recent months.
Precisely at the last meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, the EU took vehement exception to Special Rapporteur Richard Falk’s most recent report, aka baseless diatribe against Israel. It denounced the report in these words: “The EU continues to regret the unbalanced mandate …read more