In the early 1990s, British Gas did work to check if gas was available in commercial quantities. The consortium was British Gas, Consolidated Contractors Company and the Palestine Investment Fund – a publicly owned investment company used to strengthen the local economy. The Palestinian Authority faced two challengers: the political consent to develop the gas, and British Gas’s attempt to find buyers for the gas.
When the gas was discovered in 1999, Yasser Arafat proclaimed; “It’s a gift from God to us, to our people.” Little did he realize that he would be murdered by Israel within five years.
Israel has a centuries-old policy that goes something like this: “What’s ours is ours – – – what’s yours is negotiable” The question was how to take control of this gas. The answer reached was to kill Arafat (the obstacle). Israel then planned a move that went as follows:
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2000. Then the Second Intifada erupted in September 2000. From this moment on, Arafat was a virtual prisoner in his bombed out offices in Ramallah, unable to exert more than minimal control over Palestinian life.
Former Prime Minister Sharon publicly admitted to having tried to kill Arafat several times. In September 2003, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert publicly declared that the Israeli government intended to assassinate Arafat, claiming the cabinet’s decision to get rid of Arafat was “a decision to remove Arafat as an obstacle to peace.” (Or was it an obstacle to gain control of Gaza’s gas).
Israel never repudiated that decision. Just weeks before Arafat’s death, Sharon reiterated the threat to kill him.
In October 2004, Arafat became ill after eating a meal at his compound, and immediately, suspicions arose that he had been poisoned. He was flown to France for treatment, but it proved to no avail, and he passed away. Responsibility for Arafat’s death was attributed to Israel. A prime suspect in Arafat’s murder was Mahomed Dahlan, the West Bank security chief for the PA. Such were the tensions between Arafat’s wife, Suha, and the PA that she sent samples to Switzerland, while the PA sent samples to Russia. Arafat’s death removed the obstacle of proceeding with the theft of the gas fields; and paved the way for a more pliant leadership under Mahmoud Abbas. Arafat’s assassination was intended to destroy the Palestinian Authority, foment divisions within Fatah as well as between Fatah and Hamas. It had taken nine years to identify the cause of death only because the new Palestinian leadership under Abbas did everything it could to block the truth from coming out. The PA did nothing to examine the circumstances of Arafat’s death. It refused an autopsy.
In July 2013, New York quietly asked investigative journalist Clayton Swisher, a former US Secret Service bodyguard who became friendly with Arafat and pressed his suspicions about Arafat’s death, that Al- Jazeera launched an investigation. Al Jazeera’s investigation led to the opening of a homicide inquiry in France and the exhumation of his body. On November 11, 2014, a Swiss team confirmed that Arafat was poisoned – they had found traces of radioactive isotope polonium – 210 in his exhumed remains, as well as in his shroud and the soil of his grave.
By late June 2013, an irreversible break had occurred between the two families. They were now in open warfare with each other. Details on this are available on the issue titled: “THE BREAK-UP”, https://behindthenews.co.za/the-break-up-part-1-of-a-2-part-series/. This led to a discovery of a giant oil field on the Golan Heights. It was a joint venture between entities of the 2 families. When the size of the field became known, the Rothschilds decided that they would not share this field with the Rockefellers. And thus began a covert war fought in the shadows between the 2 families. The war lasted until 2017, and resulted in the murder of Richard-son of David Rockefeller in 2014. Israel also lost two dolphin submarines in the process!
After years of denials from Israel, Israeli President Shimon Peres has admitted the truth. In an interview given to the New York Times, in early 2014, Peres said Arafat should not have been assassinated and asserted that he had opposed the policy of assassinating him. Peres stated that he had “protected Arafat from several plots against his life.
Arafat kept Gaza together, united. With his death, monthly stipends to the 27 Gaza clan chiefs came to an end. Within a few months tensions rose inside Gaza. The PA was acting as an occupation force against its own people. When elections were held in 2006, Hamas won. And with that, it paved the way for Israel to start destroying Gaza, under the pretext that it was now run by a “terrorist organization”.
These gas reserves are the root cause of every conflict Israel has had with Palestine since 2000. It was at the heart of the last five major Israeli military actions against Palestine, especially Gaza. The actions of the Israeli navy to control Gaza’s coastal waters in the early 2000s; the blockade of the Gaza Strip on June 15, 2007; the attack on Gaza in 2008; again in 2012, in August 2014 and in 2021.
The Palestinians signed a memorandum of intent on November 8, 1999 with British Gas and a company linked to the Palestinian Authority, the Consolidated Contractors Company, giving them the rights to explore the area. It was found in two small gas fields dubbed Gaza Marine 1 and Gaza Marine 2.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak deployed the Israeli navy in Gaza’s coastal waters to impede the implementation of the terms of the modest contract between the Palestinian Authority and British Gas (BG) to develop Gaza’s Mediterranean gas resources. Israel demanded that the Gaza gas be piped to facilities on its territory, and at a price below the prevailing market level and that Israel also control all the (relatively modest) revenues destined for the Palestinians — to prevent the money from being used to “fund terror.” With this Israeli action the Oslo Accords were officially doomed, because by declaring Palestinian control over gas revenues unacceptable, the Israeli government committed itself to not accepting even the most limited kind of Palestinian budgetary autonomy, let alone full sovereignty. Since no Palestinian government or organization would agree to this, a future filled with armed conflict was assured.
Reserves of natural gas were found offshore the Gaza Strip in the year 2000, within the framework of licensing to British Gas by the Palestinian National Authority. The discovered gas field Gaza Marine, though mediocre in size, had been considered at the time as one of the possible drives to boost Palestinian economy and promote regional cooperation.
The following timeline lists major attacks carried out by Israeli forces on Gaza since 2005 when it withdrew from the Gaza Strip, a coastal enclave home to 2.3 million people:
August 2005 – Israeli forces withdraw from Gaza 38 years after capturing it from Egypt, abandoning settlements and leaving it under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
January 2006 – Hamas, an armed group, wins the majority of seats in a Palestinian legislative election.
June 2006 – Hamas captures Israeli army conscript Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid from Gaza, prompting Israeli air raids and incursions.
With Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in the year 2007, the chances for developing the gas field turned low – both due to standoff with the PA Ramallah administration and the Israeli refusal to deal with Hamas. The chances further diminished with the discovery of major gas fields in the Israeli economic waters in 2009 and 2010, making Israel an unlikely customer for the Palestinian gas. As of early 2015, Gaza’s natural gas was still underwater. In the year 2018, the Shell company, which had taken over British Gas earlier, decided to relinquish its 60% stake in Gaza Marine, transferring it to Palestinian state companies.
The Israeli veto led to the intervention of the British. The result was a 2007 proposal that would have delivered the gas to Israel, not Egypt, at below-market prices, with the same 10% cut of the revenues eventually reaching the Palestinian Authority. However, those funds were first to be delivered to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York for future distribution, to guarantee that they would not be used for attacks on Israel. The Israelis pointed to the 2006 victory of the Hamas party in Palestinian elections as a deal-breaker. Though Hamas had agreed to let the Federal Reserve supervise all spending, the Israeli government, insisted that no “royalties be paid to the Palestinians.” Instead, the Israelis would deliver the equivalent of those funds “in goods and services.”
The 1st War 2008
Hamas refused the offer, and soon after, Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza, which Israel’s defense minister termed a form of “‘economic warfare’ that would generate a political crisis, leading to a popular uprising against Hamas.” This promptly broke out in 2008.
December 2008 – Israel launches a 23-day military offensive in Gaza after rockets were fired at the southern Israeli town of Sderot. About 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis killed before a ceasefire is agreed upon. This was the cover story for the attack on Gaza.
With Egyptian cooperation, Israel then seized control of commerce in and out of Gaza, limiting even food imports and eliminating its fishing industry. The Israeli government was putting the Palestinians “on a diet.” According to the Red Cross, this blockade produced “chronic malnutrition,” especially among Gazan children.
Many people out there ask this question, “Why doesn’t Saudi Arabia and the rich Gulf states help the people of Gaza? And, why is Egypt being so cruel in helping to blockade Gaza?” The answer is the media perception firstly, and secondly, the real facts and true story of the events there are kept hidden.
This is the reason: Saudi Arabia and Egypt have jointly agreed that whatever happens, Israel must not be allowed to win in destroying Gaza, and that Hamas must stand firm. The people of Gaza dare not evacuate Gaza as this would give Israel easy access to the gas fields. Once that happens, then the entire region will be in danger of getting taken over. Why? All these past 7 decades of Israel’s existence, it did not have an independent energy source. It had to rely on the Americans for the energy it needed. With its own energy sources, Israel will have the fuel for its military to run rampage across the Middle East, and pose an existential threat not only to the region, but to the entire world. Very few countries want this. Israel has to be DENIED ACCESS to its own energy sources, AT ANY COST! Thus, the people of Gaza are sacrificing themselves in order that humanity is not enslaved by Israel. There will be more on this subject in forthcoming issues.
As a senior Israeli politician put it, “Hamas… has confirmed its capability to bomb Israel’s strategic gas and electricity installations… It is clear that, without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without their consent.”
In 2010-11, the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced an energy crisis when the events of the Arab Spring in Egypt interrupted. Israel depended on supplies from Egypt -40% of Israel’s gas needs. Rising energy prices contributed to some of the largest protests involving Jewish Israelis in decades. This shortage of gas brought about an urgent need to take over Marine 1 and 2 from the PA, with Hamas standing as an obstacle in Gaza. The result was the second war of Gaza.
This was the 2nd War – 2012
The Iron Dome system, developed in part to stop Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel’s northern gas fields, was put in place near the border with Gaza and was tested during the next invasion/attack on Gaza., the fourth Israeli military attempt to weaken Hamas and eliminate any Palestinian “capability to bomb Israel’s strategic gas and electricity installations.”
November 2012 – Israel kills Hamas’s military chief of staff, Ahmad Jabari, followed by eight days of Israeli air raids on Palestine.
The Gas Wars
To summarize the gas wars to date. Putin succeeded in building Nord Stream:
He got stopped when he tried to create a southern route into Europe via South Stream.
Putin’s third leg, Nigeria to Europe resulted in the chaos that overtook Nigeria, Mali and Libya.
And, finally, Putin’s fourth leg, from the Eastern Mediterranean- from Syria and Gaza- is still on fire.
The fifth leg, Turk Stream, was built in 2018.
This pipeline war between Washington has claimed more than 300,000 lives in the past 28 years, and counting. This war has s expanded into other geographical areas – the latest being northern Iraq, especially Kurdistan, and western Iraq, in Anbar province.
Remember ISIS: “The “ISIS Project” was a joint operation involving the Rothschild colonies of Britain, France and Israel, tied up with Rockefellers America. The aim was to force the birth of an independent Kurdistan. This would accelerate the break-up of Iraq into 3 parts – Kurdistan, Central Iraq (for the Sunnis) and southern Iraq (for the Shias). Iran spoilt this plan of the two families. The ISIS Project was a failure.
One of the aims of the Ukraine war was to cut off supplies of Russian gas to the EU. After the Americans destroyed Nord Stream pipelines, this became a reality. Sanctions on Russian energy made the EU super desperate to acquire new sources of supply. Focus then shifted to the eastern Mediterranean.
The 3rd War -2014: Enter Gazprom
On Christmas day, 2013, Syria announced a deal With Gazprom to explore for oil and gas off its coast, and this — – – “was to be financed by Russia and should oil and gas be discovered, Moscow will recover the exploration costs.” And find gas, they did – – lots of it. The contract will run for 25 years. Gazprom then signed up a similar deal with the Palestine Authority, during that same time. Putin gave the PA implicit guarantees that the Russian navy would protect their facilities, and very explicitly saying, “We are going to cut Israel out of it altogether.” This PA-Gazprom deal was the key factor behind Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip in August 2014. With the Gazprom -Gazan development set to begin in 2014 and thus consolidate the Russian presence in the Levantine Basin, the Israelis once again sought a military solution.
After a year of planning, Operation Protective Edge was launched in June 2014, with two hydrocarbon-related aims:
- Demonstrating to the Russians that Israel would be able and willing to prevent activation of the Gazprom contract;
- And to definitely disable the Gazan rocket system that could threaten unilateral Israeli developments.
Israel’s operation was partially successful because it has postponed the Gazprom deal. But Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system remains unable to deter Palestinian rocket attacks with 100% accuracy, which it would have liked to do in order to protect its energy installations in the Mediterranean Sea.
Netanyahu has created a special military force for gas fields’ protection. The formation includes missile boats, drones, and 4 German-built frigates. This protection force is estimated to cost Israel around $500 m a year, starting in 2016.
Mustafa, a PA official said, “Palestinians are in a position to prevent Israel from developing that gas, and they cannot be stopped from deterring the development of that gas.” He was talking about platforms that Israel is building when it starts to take over the Gaza Marine field and extract its resources without the consent of the Palestinian government. He added, “Anybody that builds platforms out there – even those ridiculous improvised tiny little rockets that Hamas can build, even those will destroy that.”
Now, the fight for control over natural gas had, by 2011, shifted its focus to the Levant area-Syria and Gaza. A deadly war played out between the Rockefeller Empire and Putin over control of gas supplies to the EU. The full story is told in a 3-part article titled “GAS WARS, https://behindthenews.co.za/the-gas-wars-part-1-of-a-3-part-series/.
The next round of negotiations stalled over the Palestinian rejection of Israel’s demand to control all fuel and revenues destined for Gaza and the West Bank. The new Palestinian Unity government then followed the lead of the Lebanese, Syrians, and Turkish Cypriots, and in late 2013 signed an “exploration concession” with Gazprom, the large Russian natural gas company. As with Lebanon and Syria, the Russian Navy was a potential deterrent to Israeli “interference.”
Israel NEVER tells the truth as to the reasons for these attacks. Now, we know. Here is the cover story by Israel over its 3rd attack on Gaza:-
July-August 2014 – The kidnap and killing of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas leads to a seven-week war in which more than 2,100 Palestinians are killed in Gaza along with 73 Israelis, including 67 soldiers.
The 4th War – 2018:
In 2015, the Palestinian government resumed negotiations on the agreement with BG and abrogated the exclusive rights it had given to the company. It also raised the PIF share from 10% under the old agreement to 17.5%. Subsequently, Shell acquired BG on April 8, 2016.
As of 2017, the Gaza Marine field licenses were owned by PIF with 17.5% of the field development rights, Consolidated Contractors Company owns 27.5% of these rights and Shell .The development and gas extraction rights belonged to the Palestinians alone. In the year 2018, Shell company, which had taken over British Gas earlier, decided to relinquish its 60% stake in Gaza Marine, transferring it to Palestinian state companies.
March 2018 – Palestinian protests begin at Gaza’s fenced border with Israel and Israeli troops open fire to keep them back. More than 170 Palestinians killed in several months of protests, prompting fighting between Hamas and Israeli forces.
Israel and Hamas
In 2021, the PA signed a memorandum of understanding with Egypt to develop the Gaza gas field and the necessary infrastructure. Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip has seen growing calls in the past month by Palestinian factions, led mainly by Hamas, to revive explorations.
The 5th War
May 2021 – After weeks of tension during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, hundreds of Palestinians are injured by Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. Hamas demanded Israel withdraw security forces from the compound. Israel launched air raids on Gaza in response to what it said were rockets fired from Gaza. In the fighting that went on for 11 days, at least 260 people were killed in Gaza and 13 died in Israel.
After Israel’s 2021 military operation, and the ensuing massive devastation in Gaza, the international community has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to help with the reconstruction of the Strip. However, a lasting end to conflict between Israel and Palestine will not be possible without long-term investment in Palestine’s economic and human development, running into billions of dollars per year.
Billboards and banners were put up across the Gaza Strip with the caption “Our Gas is Our Right”, as Lebanon signed a maritime deal with Israel that could unlock its own gas riches in the Mediterranean Sea.
Palestinians join in a rally at the Gaza City sea port on 14 September 2022 to demand their right to receive gas from maritime fields in the eastern Mediterranean. ‘Our people’s right to benefit from its natural resources and gas is guaranteed in all international laws and resolutions.
August 2022 – More than 30 Palestinians, including women and children, killed in new air attacks carried out by Israeli planes. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, whose two commanders were killed in the air strikes, fires dozens of rockets into Israel in response.
Then, on June 30th, 2023, the Israeli Government issued preliminary approval for the development of the Gaza Marine project 30km off the coast of the Gaza Strip in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The field is located offshore Gaza, a Palestinian enclave that is controlled by Hamas. Netanyahu’s office said the project implementation would require security coordination with neighbouring Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
As per the estimates, the Gaza Marine field holds more than 40 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
Hamas agrees to let the Palestinian Authority develop Gaza’s natural gas field, pending US-brokered negotiations with Israel, Egypt, and partner companies, in exchange for a share of revenues
In an effort to alleviate the impact of Israeli wars and the blockade, the source said, “Our Egyptian brothers have proposed improving the economic situation in both Gaza and the West Bank…and exerted pressure on the Israeli occupation to grant us (Palestinians) the opportunity to develop our offshore gas resources”.
The source told TNA, “Based on the negotiations with Egyptians, the PA is the only Palestinian entity recognized internationally and it will receive the revenues from the gas marine in Gaza. This is why we decided to accept to allow it to develop marine in favour of developing the situation in Gaza.”
Ismail Radwan, a Gaza-based Hamas official authorised to speak to the media, declined to comment on the purported breakthrough but told TNA that “Gaza’s gas is owned by all Palestinians in Gaza and they alone have the right to invest in it (…) Israel occupation cannot impose its requirements and restrictions on our capabilities and natural wealth”.
Radwan stressed that Hamas as well as all other factions, including Fatah, have the right to decide how they would invest in their gas in a way to develop the economic and political situations for their people.
According to the Israeli channel, Hamas will not be allowed to benefit from the economic profits until resolving the issue of the four Israeli captives in Gaza since 2014. Palestinian officials said these quantities would provide enough energy for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank for 15 years, though it is possible some of it’s would be geared for export. While the parties signal some progress has been made, a deal may be years away due to the complexity of security and political guarantees that need to be made both publicly and in secret.
The fighting between Israel and militants from Gaza could be a blow to the ambitions of Israel and the wider eastern Mediterranean region to become a hub for exporting natural gas to Europe and elsewhere. Those aspirations received a lift when Chevron, the American energy giant, acquired stakes in two large Israeli offshore gas fields when it bought Noble Energy in 2020 for about $5 billion. Noble Energy had led the way in developing Israeli gas.
Natural gas fields off the Israeli coast now account for about 70 percent of the country’s electric power generation, reducing the use of polluting coal. The gas has also helped Israel ease what had been a heavy dependence on energy imports.
Chevron has been working on plans to expand production at these units, called Leviathan and Tamar, and to add pipelines to help increase gas flows from Israel to Egypt, which indirectly exports Israeli output in the form of liquefied natural gas from facilities on the Mediterranean coast. Chevron is also considering installing a floating facility to process liquefied natural gas in Israeli waters, a project that would cost several billion dollars. Along with Israel, Chevron is also active in Egypt, a major gas producer and consumer, and Cyprus.
The fierce fighting that started on October 7th could potentially slow the pace of investment in gas fields in the region. It could also hamper Israel’s efforts to attract more international energy companies to drill for gas. The hope had been that Chevron’s arrival in Israel would open the way to other large international energy companies to invest there.
The Long Road to Today
Egypt has security, diplomatic and economic interests in seeing this project come to fruition. With an interest in supporting the Palestinian people and economy, and leveraging its ability to engage all key actors, Egypt was able to broker a compromise that is acceptable to the PA, Hamas and Israel. While the revenue — which could reach an estimated $700-800 million a year — will go to the PA and an agreed portion will be used to support Gaza’s economy, Egypt would also benefit. A portion of the gas will be liquefied in Egypt for export to Europe, and the state-owned Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company is expected to take part in developing the field. Egypt also hopes that this project could be a step that advances Palestinian reconciliation and contributes to achieving a long-term calm in Gaza, linked to an ambitious economic plan and building on its own reconstruction efforts in Gaza that started after the May 2021 war. The plan is coordinated with the United States and Qatar and would eventually include the West Bank, to encourage maintaining broader calm and prepare the ground for a political process to emerge.
Israel deducts $22 million from the PA tax revenue every month (almost equally divided between electricity going to Gaza and the West Bank). One estimate is that the PA’s savings may reach $560 million annually by eliminating the need to import Israeli electricity. The PA burden will dramatically diminish if gas can be used to generate electricity there. Hamas may also see the indirect benefit to its standing with the Gazan people who currently have access to less than 40% of their energy needs, and for whom electricity is available for only a few hours daily. Converting electricity generation from diesel to natural gas would also reduce pollution in Gaza, ensure a more reliable energy supply, and have huge developmental implications dramatically improving living conditions.
The development of the fields has been on hold all these years not simply due to security concerns given Hamas control of Gaza, but also due to Israelis’ and Palestinians’ inability to agree on the former’s insistence that it be granted surplus gas from the field — an initial pre-condition when the concession was awarded to BG in 1999. With the subsequent discovery of abundant Israeli gas fields, this condition has lost its relevance to Israel.
Several challenges remain. First, Israel is expected to demand guarantees that the gas revenues will not benefit Hamas. A second sensitive challenge is that one of the fields, albeit a smaller and less significant one, is divided territorially between Palestinians and Israelis with Israel maintaining that 70% of the gas lies on its side. This means that moving forward would require recognition of maritime borders, which would be an unlikely step for the current Israeli government given its hardline stance toward concessions to the Palestinians.
By itself, this Gaza Marine development is no cure for the ills of occupation and ongoing conflict — it is tantamount to providing aspirin to a cancer patient — but it has the potential to relieve some pain and generate opportunities for additional steps that can improve conditions for Palestinians. This could be a door opener that should not be dismissed in a context where so many other doors are closed.
At the end of June 2023, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation said a trilateral agreement had been reached between Israel, the PA and Egypt but mentioned no further details. The official said he hoped gas will be extracted by 2025 through Israeli infrastructure that can be used for gas transportation, noting that the Palestinians will need about 15 years to prepare their own infrastructure.
However, Palestinian economic expert Samir Hulileh said there would be no extension of the gas pipeline to the Israeli city of Ashdod, but rather the lines would be extended to the Egyptian city of Al-Arish. The Egyptian company would then process the gas and sell it, along with Egyptian gas, to Europe.
Hulileh said that the annual income for the PA from the gas field once the operation is underway will be between $700-$800m, equivalent to $7-8bn within 10 years.
“The prime minister and the government are very interested in it because it will generate sums of money that will help the government’s treasury,” the official PA source said.
An overlooked means of generating these revenues would be to allocate Palestine its fair share of benefits of oil and natural gas reserves in the occupied territories and the Eastern Mediterranean, which are currently being exploited only by Israel.
A recent study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) points out that new discoveries of natural gas in the Levant Basin are in the range of 1.5 trillion cubic meters, while recoverable oil is estimated at 1.7 billion barrels.
The Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967 and the blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007 have prevented the Palestinian people from exercising any control over their own fossil fuel resources, denying them much-needed fiscal and export revenues and leaving the Palestinian economy on the verge of collapse. The economic costs inflicted on the Palestinian people under occupation are well documented: tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods; the confiscation and destruction of property and assets; loss of land, water and other natural resources; a fragmented domestic market and separation from neighbouring and international markets; and the expansion of Israeli settlements that are illegal under international law.
The Palestinian people also exercise only limited control over their fiscal space and policy. Per the stipulations of the Paris Protocol on Economic Relations, Israel controls Palestinian monetary policy, borders and trade. It also collects customs duties, VAT and income taxes on Palestinians employed in Israel which it then disburses to the Palestinian government. UNCTAD estimates that, under occupation, the Palestinian people have lost $47.7bn in fiscal revenues over the 2007-2017 period, including revenues leaked to Israel and accrued interest. In comparison, the Palestinian government’s development spending over the same period was approximately $4.5bn. The prolonged closure and recurrent military operations in Gaza have left more than half the territory’s population living below the poverty line and cost $16.7bn in lost GDP annually. This figure does not account for the huge opportunity cost of preventing the Palestinian people from using their natural gas field off the shores of Gaza.
The 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, known as the Oslo II Accord, gave the Palestinian Authority (PA) maritime jurisdiction over its waters up to 20 nautical miles from the coast. The PA signed a 25-year contract for gas exploration with the British Gas Group in 1999, and a large gas field, Gaza Marine, was discovered at 17 to 21 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza the same year. However, despite initial discussions between the Israeli government, the PA and British Gas on the sale of gas from this field and the provision of much-needed revenue to the occupied Palestinian territories, the Palestinians have not realised any benefits.
Since the blockade of Gaza in 2007, the Israeli government has established de facto control over Gaza’s offshore natural gas reserves. The contractor, British Gas, has since been dealing with the Israeli government, effectively bypassing the Palestinian government regarding exploration and development rights.
West Bank Oil
Israel has also taken control of the Meged oil and natural gas field, located inside the occupied West Bank. Israel states that the field lies west of the armistice line of 1948, yet most of the reservoir is situated beneath the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.
More recently, Israel has begun to develop new oil and gas finds in the Eastern Mediterranean, solely for its own benefit.
In commandeering and exploiting Palestinian oil and gas resources, Israel is acting in violation of the letter and the spirit of the Hague Regulations, the Fourth Geneva Convention and a body of international humanitarian and human rights law that addresses the exploitation of common resources by an occupying power, without regard for the interest, rights and shares of the occupied population.
A fair share of oil and gas revenues would provide the Palestinians with sustainable financing to invest in long-term economic reconstruction, rehabilitation and recovery. The alternative is for these common resources to be exploited individually and exclusively by Israel, and to become another trigger for conflict and violence.
The Meged oil field is an oil field that was first discovered in the 1980s but declared to not be commercially viable at the time. In 2004, Givot Olam Oil declared to have made it commercially viable to drill. It is one of the largest on-shore oil fields in Israel. It began production in 2010 and produces oil as well as some natural gas. Its proven oil reserves are about 1,525 million barrels.
With the location of Meged Oil field close to the border between Israel and the West Bank, it is subject to a dispute over ownership rights.
Palestinians claim that Givot Olam decided that the field is commercially viable only after the creation of the Israeli West Bank barrier to the west of the field, which they claim is located within the borders of the Ramallah and al-Bireh Governorate.
According to a source in the Palestinian Authority, 80% of the Meged oil field is on land owned by Palestinians. Efraim Sneh has stated that although the oil drilling site is in Israel the oil reservoir may extend to the West Bank near the West Bank village of Rantis. Sneh suggested that cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian sides could lead to the construction of a joint oil pipeline.
Now we come to the latest war on Gaza. But, this time, a new player has emerged in the equation.
The story continues in Part 2. Stay tuned folks.