PERSPECTIVE; War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields

The military invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israeli Forces bears a direct relation to the control and ownership of strategic offshore gas reserves.

This is a war of conquest. Discovered in 2000, there are extensive gas reserves off the Gaza coastline.

British Gas (BG Group) and its partner, the Athens based Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) owned by Lebanon’s Sabbagh and Koury families, were granted oil and gas exploration rights in a 25 year agreement signed in November 1999 with the Palestinian Authority.

The rights to the offshore gas field are respectively British Gas (60 percent); Consolidated Contractors (CCC) (30 percent); and the Investment Fund of the Palestinian Authority (10 percent). (Haaretz, October 21, 2007).

The PA-BG-CCC agreement includes field development and the construction of a gas pipeline.(Middle East Economic Digest, Jan 5, 2001).

The BG licence covers the entire Gazan offshore marine area, which is contiguous to several Israeli offshore gas facilities. (See Map below). It should be noted that 60 percent of the gas reserves along the Gaza-Israel coastline belong to Palestine.

The BG Group drilled two wells in 2000: Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2. Reserves are estimated by British Gas to be of the order of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, valued at approximately 4 billion dollars. These are the figures made public by British Gas. The size of Palestine’s gas reserves could be much larger.

Who Owns the Gas Fields

The issue of sovereignty over Gaza’s gas fields is crucial. From a legal standpoint, the gas reserves belong to Palestine.

The death of Yasser Arafat, the election of the Hamas government and the ruin of the Palestinian Authority have enabled Israel to establish de facto control over Gaza’s offshore gas reserves.

British Gas (BG Group) has been dealing with the Tel Aviv government. In turn, the Hamas government has been bypassed in regards to exploration and development rights over the gas fields.

The election of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 was a major turning point. Palestine’s sovereignty over the offshore gas fields was challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court. Sharon stated unequivocally that “Israel would never buy gas from Palestine” intimating that Gaza’s offshore gas reserves belong to Israel.

In 2003, Ariel Sharon, vetoed an initial deal, which would allow British Gas to supply Israel with natural gas from Gaza’s offshore wells. (The Independent, August 19, 2003)

The election victory of Hamas in 2006 was conducive to the demise of the Palestinian Authority, which became confined to the West Bank, under the proxy regime of Mahmoud Abbas.

In 2006, British Gas “was close to signing a deal to pump the gas to Egypt.” (Times, May, 23, 2007). According to reports, British Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened on behalf of Israel with a view to shunting the agreement with Egypt.

The following year, in May 2007, the Israeli Cabinet approved a proposal by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert “to buy gas from the Palestinian Authority.” The proposed contract was for $4 billion, with profits of the order of $2 billion of which one billion was to go the Palestinians.

Tel Aviv, however, had no intention on sharing the revenues with Palestine.
An Israeli team of negotiators was set up by the Israeli Cabinet to thrash out a deal with the BG Group, bypassing both the Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority:

“Israeli defence authorities want the Palestinians to be paid in goods and services and insist that no money go to the Hamas-controlled Government.” (Ibid, emphasis added)

The objective was essentially to nullify the contract signed in 1999 between the BG Group and the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat.

Under the proposed 2007 agreement with BG, Palestinian gas from Gaza’s offshore wells was to be channeled by an undersea pipeline to the Israeli seaport of Ashkelon, thereby transferring control over the sale of the natural gas to Israel.

The deal fell through. The negotiations were suspended:

“Mossad Chief Meir Dagan opposed the transaction on security grounds, that the proceeds would fund terror”. (Member of Knesset Gilad Erdan, Address to the Knesset on “The Intention of Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Purchase Gas from the Palestinians When Payment Will Serve Hamas,” March 1, 2006, quoted in Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon, Does the Prospective Purchase of British Gas from Gaza’s Coastal Waters Threaten Israel’s National Security? Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, October 2007)

Israel’s intent was to foreclose the possibility that royalties be paid to the Palestinians.
In December 2007, The BG Group withdrew from the negotiations with Israel and in January 2008 they closed their office in Israel.(BG website).

Invasion Plan on The Drawing Board

The invasion plan of the Gaza Strip under “Operation Cast Lead” was set in motion in June 2008, according to Israeli military sources:

“Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago [June or before June] , even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.”(Barak Ravid, Operation “Cast Lead”: Israeli Air Force strike followed months of planning, Haaretz, December 27, 2008)

That very same month, the Israeli authorities contacted British Gas, with a view to resuming crucial negotiations pertaining to the purchase of Gaza’s natural gas:

“Both Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler agreed to inform BG of Israel’s wish to renew the talks.

The sources added that BG has not yet officially responded to Israel’s request, but that company executives would probably come to Israel in a few weeks to hold talks with government officials.” (Globes online- Israel’s Business Arena, June 23, 2008)

The decision to speed up negotiations with British Gas (BG Group) coincided, chronologically, with the planning of the invasion of Gaza initiated in June. It would appear that Israel was anxious to reach an agreement with the BG Group prior to the invasion, which was already in an advanced planning stage.

Moreover, these negotiations with British Gas were conducted by the Ehud Olmert government with the knowledge that a military invasion was on the drawing board. In all likelihood, a new “post war” political-territorial arrangement for the Gaza strip was also being contemplated by the Israeli government.

In fact, negotiations between British Gas and Israeli officials were ongoing in October 2008, 2-3 months prior to the commencement of the bombings on December 27th.

In November 2008, the Israeli Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Infrastructures instructed Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to enter into negotiations with British Gas, on the purchase of natural gas from the BG’s offshore concession in Gaza. (Globes, November 13, 2008)

“Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler wrote to IEC CEO Amos Lasker recently, informing him of the government’s decision to allow negotiations to go forward, in line with the framework proposal it approved earlier this year.

The IEC board, headed by chairman Moti Friedman, approved the principles of the framework proposal a few weeks ago. The talks with BG Group will begin once the board approves the exemption from a tender.” (Globes Nov. 13, 2008)

Gaza and Energy Geopolitics

The military occupation of Gaza is intent upon transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel in violation of international law.

What can we expect in the wake of the invasion?

What is the intent of Israel with regard to Palestine’s Natural Gas reserves?

A new territorial arrangement, with the stationing of Israeli and/or “peacekeeping” troops?

The militarization of the entire Gaza coastline, which is strategic for Israel?

The outright confiscation of Palestinian gas fields and the unilateral declaration of Israeli sovereignty over Gaza’s maritime areas?

If this were to occur, the Gaza gas fields would be integrated into Israel’s offshore installations, which are contiguous to those of the Gaza Strip. (See Map 1 above).

These various offshore installations are also linked up to Israel’s energy transport corridor, extending from the port of Eilat, which is an oil pipeline terminal, on the Red Sea to the seaport – pipeline terminal at Ashkelon, and northwards to Haifa, and eventually linking up through a proposed Israeli-Turkish pipeline with the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

Ceyhan is the terminal of the Baku, Tblisi Ceyhan Trans Caspian pipeline. “What is envisaged is to link the BTC pipeline to the Trans-Israel Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, also known as Israel’s Tipline.” (See Michel Chossudovsky, The War on Lebanon and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, July 23, 2006)

AUDIO: Galloway speaks the truth! (Get your notebook “israeli solider”) ( a MUST listen!)

George savages Sky News over its coverage of Israel’s attack on Lebanon, 2006

George Galloway bashes anti-Semite woman

Ref: George Galloway

GAZA: ONE YEAR ON ‘Punish, humiliate, terrorise’

As the one year anniversary of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip is marked, it is vital to re-examine Operation Cast Lead within the wider context of Israel’s approach to both Gaza and the Palestinians.

There is a danger that the scale of the devastation and the international protests which followed the war can deflect attention from the broader Israeli policies of collective punishment and deliberately-engineered socio-economic collapse.

The first important part of this context for both before – and since – Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip is the crippling blockade.

The isolation of the Gaza Strip actually goes back to the early 1990s, when Israel first implemented the system of ‘closure’ and fenced off the territory. But Israel’s current tight control of the Gaza Strip dates back to the aftermath of the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006, and then Hamas’ armed defeat of Fatah in the summer of 2007.

Thus even before the widespread targeting of civilian infrastructure by the Israeli military a year ago, the Gaza Strip had been subjected to what the Goldstone report described as “a systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation”.

‘Economy dismantled’

Since 2007, aid as a proportion of all imports into the Gaza Strip has increased eightfold. Workforce unemployment stands at around 40 per cent, with only seven per cent of factories operational. The weekly average for truckloads of goods entering Gaza is a quarter of the quantity in the first half of 2007.

Months before Operation Cast Lead, an aid agency report described how the blockade “is destroying public service infrastructure in Gaza” and “has effectively dismantled the economy”.

Little wonder then that the World Health Organisation’s mission to Gaza reported in May this year that “since 2006, the health effects of the blockade have included stagnating life expectancy, worsening infant and child mortality, and childhood stunting”.

Israel has also maintained a tight control over Gaza’s air space and territorial waters, the population registry, and movement between Gaza and the West Bank.

Political strategy

The second crucial context for Operation Cast Lead is the overarching political strategy behind Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza. For the humanitarian catastrophe documented in numerous reports by the UN and NGOs is not, of course, a ‘natural disaster’ but a deliberate, political policy.

War was intended to diminish civilian support for Hamas, White says [EPA]

One of Israel’s main aims over the last few years has been to keep Hamas diplomatically and internationally isolated. Tzipi Livni, the then foreign minister, told a press conference a few days into Operation Cast Lead of how it was “important to keep Hamas from becoming a legitimate organisation” (a reason for Israel preferring not to extend a six-month truce).

Another key Israeli goal, evident in both the ongoing blockade as well as the brutal military assault of Operation Cast Lead, is to punish the civilian population in the hope of turning them against Hamas.

In early 2006, an advisor to Ehud Olmert, the then Israeli prime minister, said that “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet” in order to pressure the elected Hamas-majority government.

In September 2007, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported on the Israeli military’s plans “to limit services to the civilian population in Gaza” in order “to compromise the ability of Hamas to govern”.

It was this logic that shaped Israel’s military operations which, in the words of the UN’s Goldstone report, were “directed by Israel at the people of Gaza as a whole, in furtherance of an overall policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population”.

‘De-developing’ Gaza

That this was a “carefully planned” assault intended “to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population” was clear at the time.

The Jerusalem Post reported Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, as saying that Israel’s aim was to “to provide a strong blow to the people of Gaza so that they would lose their appetite for shooting at Israel”.

As hundreds of Palestinians were being killed, The Washington Post related how the “hope” of Israeli officials was that “Gazans become disgusted with Hamas and drive the group from power”.

An Israeli ex-national security adviser told The New York Times that “the terrible devastation” caused by going beyond just “military targets” would lead to “a lot of political pressure” on Hamas.

Targeting civilians to advance a political goal is a standard definition of terrorism: in the words of the US state department, “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets”. US federal law describes terrorism as violence or “life-threatening acts” apparently intended “to intimidate or coerce a civilian population”.

A final part of Israel’s political strategy for the Gaza Strip is to turn the territory into a depoliticised humanitarian crisis, its population rendered utterly dependent on international aid. This is the strategy of ‘de-development’ that has been going on for decades and which is now intensified and more brutal.

Zionism’s contemporary dilemma

But the third and final context for recalling the events of a year ago means looking beyond just Gaza to take in Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians as a whole.

Israel’s regime of control over the Palestinians, both those in the Occupied Territories as well as those with citizenship in the pre-1967 borders, is a response to political Zionism’s historic and contemporary dilemma: how to create and maintain a Jewish state in a land with a non-Jewish population.

In 1948 and 1967, Israel was able to carry out the mass expulsion of Palestinians. Since then, however, Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, aimed at maintaining the domination of one group over another, have been guided by two, parallel principles: maximum land with the minimum number of Arabs, and, the maximum number of Arabs on the minimum amount of land.

That is how the blockade of Gaza and Operation Cast Lead fit in with the eviction of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the consolidation of the settlement blocs in the West Bank, and Israeli state policy toward the Negev and Galilee.

Slowly, Palestinians are being forced out, whether through house demolitions, the removal of residency permits, or the creation of conditions which make the continuation of normal life impossible.

There is no ‘solution’ to Gaza outside of a just peace for Palestinians and Jewish Israelis that can only emerge when the Palestinian people’s rights under international law are realised, and Israel’s policies of dispossession, separation, and structural discrimination are seriously challenged.

Ref: Al Jazeera

Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer specialising in Palestine/Israel. His articles have appeared in publications like the Guardian’s ‘Comment is free’, New Statesman, Electronic Intifada, Middle East International, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and others. His first book, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, was published earlier this year by Pluto Press.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Israel’s Occupation – the first complete history of Israel’s occupation

This first complete history of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip allows us to see beyond the smoke screen of politics in order to make sense of the dramatic changes that have developed on the ground over the past forty years. Looking at a wide range of topics, from control of water and electricity to health care and education as well as surveillance and torture, Neve Gordon’s panoramic account reveals a fundamental shift from a politics of life–when, for instance, Israel helped Palestinians plant more than six-hundred thousand trees in Gaza and provided farmers with improved varieties of seeds–to a macabre politics characterized by an increasing number of deaths. Drawing attention to the interactions, excesses, and contradictions created by the forms of control used in the Occupied Territories, Gordon argues that the occupation’s very structure, rather than the policy choices of the Israeli government or the actions of various Palestinian political factions, has led to this radical shift.

From the Inside Flap
“Covering the four decades since the 1967 war rather than just the current situation, Israel’s Occupation offers a unique perspective on the changing dynamics of the Israel-Palestine conflict.”–Timothy Mitchell, author of Rule of Experts

“Interweaving a mountain of documents, reports, and firsthand testimonies, Neve Gordon, one of Israel’s bravest intellectuals and activists, details and examines the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as no one ever has before. His book will no doubt change the perspective from which the history of the occupation is told.”–Eyal Weizman, author of Hollow Land

“Neve Gordon’s Israel’s Occupation provides a powerful and convincing structural framework for explaining Israel’s changing methods of rule in the Palestinian territories from 1967 and until today. The arguments, insights, and supporting evidence are impressive, and the prose is written with a golden pen. This book will change the debate on Israel and its occupation, and I will not be surprised if Gordon’s conceptual framework is harnessed to analyze the workings of other occupations, past and present. It’s social science at its best.”–Yinon Cohen, Columbia University

BUY THE BOOK HERE

Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East

“One of the most cogent understandings of the modern Middle East I have read. It is superb, because the author himself is a unique witness who blows away the media debris and presents both a j’accuse of those who would destroy the lives of whole societies in their pursuit of power and myth, and a warning to the rest of us to speak up and act.”
John Pilger, author of Freedom Next Time (2006) and The New Rulers of the World (2003)

“A compelling account of the recent wars for Middle East oil, untangling a complex web of interests shared by the neocons, Israel and the Bush White House. Cook’s timely book raises disturbing questions about where Israel and the US hope to push the region next.”
David Hirst, author of The Gun and the Olive Branch (2003)

“Undeniably enriches and elevates the debate.”
Afif Safieh, Palestinian Ambassador in Washington

Buy the book here

51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration With the Nazis


I had to crack up when I saw the one star reviews on this book. That’s the grassroots portion of the Israel Lobby voicing its objection to truth again, (they do that A LOT). It’s also an excellent indication the book, film or information you’re seeking is exactly what you need to read. I first ran into this

The Lobby is out in force

The book on Jews Against Zionism, the Torah True Jews of New York who are 100% anti-apartheid, (Israel is the world’s only aparthied nation today. They call it ‘Zionism’). One of the tools used to keep apartheid alive and well in Israel is, as Norm Finkelstein put it, the Holocaust Industry. Yes, the German holocaust happened…as did another seven during the twentieth century. The Zionist movement set on the complete conquest of Palestine for a Jewish supremacist state did work with the Nazis. These documents prove it as do such facts as Walburg’s handling of security for the Nazi state until 1939, (his brother was one of the founding members of our Federal Reserve). Walburg, though Jewish was allowed to leave Nazi Germany with his fortune in tact in 1939 so certain influential Jews were shielded from Nazi oppression. You should be asking why. These documents will help you understand the double standard. Of course be careful where you discuss this. In some countries, deviating from the accepted historical revisionism with the truth on this issue, the German holocaust, lands you in jail. That is if you talk about the 50% of the victims who were Jewish. See, the Catholics, Mentally Ill, homosexuals, Gypsies, Communists and handicap making up the other 50% of victims, they don’t matter anymore.
They were not the right faith, nor were they included in reparations and rarely are they mentioned…even in the state funded holocaust museums. (Hint that also should give you a clue there is something very unkosher about this whole thing…that 50% of the victims no longer are mentioned or matter)

If history has lessons, you need to know these. Just be very careful with whom you discuss this book’s details. Trillions of dollars depend on the truth not getting out because if it does, the world’s greatest victims are shown for what they really are, the world’s foremost victimizers.

If that happens, bye, bye US support; bye bye US aid; bye bye protection from war crimes prosecution and bye, bye what little international sympathy that is left. Like I said. A lot is at stake if people learn the whole truth about the German holocaust. Today truth will land you in jail and that fear is used to censor your thoughts and what you read. Another reason you probably want to read this book.

Ref: Amazona

The complete readlist: New anti-Israel pro-Palestine books

These book are a MUST and couldn´t have been better handpicked than by a reviewer that position himself as following: “I am opposed to Post-Humanism and sympathetic to neo-conservative ideas, free- marketer, anti-Europeanism, anti-islamist”.

These are the book the ProIsraelis, Israel apologists, Islamofobs and neo-conservatives don´t want you to read!
Thanx Seth!

“explaining Jewish Anti-Semitism”
Why are so many Jews readily available to join the ranks of the anti-Semites? This is not clear but it is clear that Mr. Hoffmans and Gore Vidals books included Jewish co-authors apparently unaware of the damage they were doing. Nevertheless Mr. Finkelstein ranks above many in his anti-Semitism and self hate. His books: Image and Reality of the Israel: The Israel-Palestine Conflict and The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, New Edition 2nd Edition are prime examples of anti-Semitic texts couched in anti-Israeli words.

“Chomsky: an anti-Semite?”
Chomsky is another pseudo intellectual like Vidal who claims he understands the middle east conflict but his training was in linguistics and his books use a blend of fancy language to confuse the reader while using bogus facts. His famous book The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestiniansis an example of mild anti-Zionist attitudes couched and wrapped inside a veil of anti-Semitism. Chomsky was also involved with a publishing company run by known holocaust deniers.

“The truth about Gore Vidal”
Gore Vidal once whined that American children know more about the Holocaust then they do about the Civil War. He goes on in this book to attack Israel and using a Jewish writer he then tries to pretend Judaism is not a legitimate religion. The truth is Mr. Vidal is an old aristocratic anti-Semite and he wont give up his ways.Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years (Pluto Middle Eastern Studies)

“The lies of Michael Hoffman”

Who is Michael Hoffman. Its not clear, although his bio claims he attended college. All that is clear is that he is an anti-Semite and his books make this assertion obvious. He has written two books, to my knowledge, one which claims the Israelis have committed a ‘holocaust’ against the Palestinians and the other which claims the Judaism worships idols. The reason this is anti-Semitic is because by using the word ‘holocaust’ to then accuse actual Holocaust survivors of perpetrating it is to spit on the graves of the 7 million who really were killed in the actual event. By defaming Judaism Mr. Hoffman tries to encourage hatred and intolerance.

The Israeli Holocaust Against the Palestinians
Judaism’s Strange Gods

“How Paul Findley works”
When people speak about the ‘Jewish lobby’ one has to be concerned about what is being implied. What is being implied is that Jews control the press and influence ‘disproportionately’ the government. But where is the criticism of organizations like CAIR that also influence and lobby on behalf of a religious group. Why doesn’t Findley confront them?
They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby

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