Israel must transport gas to the EU via Egypt and thus lay a hand on the gas tap to Southern Europe. It is a significant achievement from a diplomatic point of view, but what does it mean for relations with the EU, Egypt and Russia?
In 2009 and 2010, large offshore gas fields were discovered in the Mediterranean. The discovery of gas reserves has led to an energy transition in the Jewish state. Coal and oil have been replaced, resulting in lower domestic CO2 emissions. The country has gone from being an importer of mineral fuels to a major exporter of gas, with Egypt and Jordan as the biggest buyers.
Several Israeli governments have sought to exploit these discoveries both in Israel and abroad. Energy dependence can strengthen economic interests between countries, so long-term peace is the obvious choice. This share not only strengthens the energy relationship with Egypt, but reaches out to the EU for the first time. The trade route to Egypt has existed for some time: here gas is liquefied and shipped to the whole world. Gabriel Mitchellan expert on Israel’s energy policy, called the agreement with the European Union one Game changer†
The signing of the memorandum is happening now, mainly due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Western sanctions that followed. The European Union wants to drastically reduce Russia’s energy dependence in the short term and is looking for alternatives worldwide. Gas from Israel is a playful drop in the ocean, but very welcome nonetheless. Germany, for example, stated that it was interested in Israeli gas. Naftali Bennett spoke about a new chapter in relations with the EU.
Israel and Europe are on a strong track.
This is a new chapter in Israeli-European relations. 🇮🇱🇪🇺 pic.twitter.com/wPgDfcghUq
– Naftali Bennett Bennett (@naftalibennett) June 14, 2022
Putin against the hair
Israel offers the EU a solution now that the Union has sided with Ukraine in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. By approaching the EU, Israel risks giving up its relatively neutral status in the war. This relative neutrality is important for Israel because of Russia’s presence in Syria, as well as at the negotiating table in Vienna for a new Iran agreement.
However, Mitchell does not think Putin will be upset about a deal like this, which is only relatively small in size. The language of the note is rather vague and therefore not a real trade agreement.
Pipelines and interconnections
Gas is seen by analysts, including Gabriel Mitchell, as important in the transition to sustainable energy. Gas, for example, is less polluting than coal, and it is relatively easy to extract and transport.
While the famous EastMed pipeline is currently no longer taken seriously by European and Israeli political decision-makers, the possibility of building an energy network in the Eastern Mediterranean using interconnections is becoming more and more realistic. Electricity connections are high-voltage cables that connect neighboring countries’ electricity systems. They ensure that surplus electricity, such as generated by wind and solar parks, can be traded and shared between the countries. This ensures that renewable energy is not wasted and ensures a greener and more efficient energy system. In this case, these interconnections are located under the sea. Mitchell: “While trade in fossil fuels is often one zero game these interconnections ensure that sustainability becomes increasingly attractive. ”
Israeli business and politicians hope that gas diplomacy will be strong enough to ease tensions over Israel’s ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. The Director General of the Ministry of Energy, Lior Schillat, speaking on the phone from Cairo after the agreement was signed, saying that Israel still considers energy unique because it could be a “source of cooperation rather than a source of dispute.”
Mitchell estimates that the chances of Israeli gas ending up in Europe will increase in the coming months and years.
Would you like to read more about the energy network around the Mediterranean (EastMed)? Click here.