Israel’s Natural Gas Find Can Help The Israeli And Palestinian Peace Process

 @David_Kashi
on July 29 2013 12:43 PM
The Homer Ferrington gas drilling rig, operated by Noble Energy and drilling in an offshore block on concession from the Cypriot government, is seen during President Demetris Christofias' visit in the east Mediterranean, Nicosia November 21, 2011.
The Homer Ferrington gas-drilling rig, operated by Noble Energy Inc. and drilling in an offshore block on concession from the Cypriot government, is seen last Nov. 21. Drawing on a gas reservoir in a not-too-distant area of the Mediterranean Sea, a Noble Energy-led consortium developing the Tamar field off Israel's coast said on Sunday it had signed a 15-year deal to supply an Israeli power-plant operator with an estimated $680 million worth of gas. REUTERS/Cyprus Public Informat

As the restarting of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinian finally takes off after more than a decade’s long stall, Israel’s natural gas find can play a crucial role in cementing an agreement between the two sides, an Israeli expert told International Business Times Monday.

“It could be a very important bridge and a very important contributor to the Palestinian economy,” Oded Eran, a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies, a think tank affiliated with Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic  Studies, in Israel, said in an interview. “But there is such a long way to go before this becomes … accepted,” he said, acknowledging that the issue is complicated and can take time.

Eran said that the issue of Israel’s huge gas finds off its coast will be complicated by legal, security, political and economic issues that will take a long time to settle.

“If the negotiations develop to that extent that the two sides can look at the issue from all these angles [legal, security, political and economic] that would be very encouraging,” Eran said.

A Texas-based energy company, Noble Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NBL), discovered the largest deep water natural gas field in the world off Israel’s coast in 2009. The amount of natural gas that was found has increased Israel’s energy security by making it more energy independent. Currently, Israel is looking toward exporting its natural gas.

Another hurdle that complicates an energy deal between Israel and the Palestinians is the domestic conflict between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian government in Ramallah, Eran said.

Still, Eran said that this could be a confidence-building measure where there is “a lot of opportunity over cooperation, but both sides would have to and want to clarify those issues before they get into it.”

Senior Fellow at the International Security Program, at Harvard University and former Deputy National Security advisor in Israel, Chuck Freilich said he does not see any positive outcomes from the talks. He told the International Business Times that the energy factor can only help peace efforts only if the sides reach an agreement.
 

“I think it’s totally unrelated to the energy issue. It is just not a factor here. Now, when [and] if we ever reach the point where an agreement is reached then maybe the energy issue can become a positive incentive,” Freilich said. 

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