Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Geopolitical and Energy Stakes behind the Israel-Gaza War of 2014.

'Barring some element that fundamentally changes the equation – an Israeli decision to re-occupy Gaza, the eruption of a third intifada on the West Bank – at some point both Israel and Hamas will be ready for mediators to help produce some negotiated ceasefire.'-America needs to end its obsession with trying to fix everything in Gaza-Aaron David Miller,
Israel is going for outright victory and to crush Hamas decisively as a political force. The absence of any geopolitical context to Aaron Miller's analysis is noticeable. Israel aims primarily to secure the Gaza Marine gas fields the better to stave off  a potential energy crisis and shore up Egypt which also lacks enough cheap gas.

Washington partly shares the aim of stable Egypt but it has been wary about the troubling division being opened up between Turkey and Qatar, on the one side, and Egypt and Israel and Saudi Arabia on the other. Growing tensions between these regional power alignments are blocking effective peace negotiations.

Hamas is backed by Qatar and Turkey because both have a geopolitical interest in being onside with their Muslim Brotherhood allies in Syria whom they hope will overthrow Assad and so push forward the construction of a Qatar Turkey pipeline. in rivalry to Israel's regional energy designs.

Israel, for its part, would not want the Sunni axis of influence to develop and for Qatar to be able to transit gas through to the Eastern Mediterranean before it has fully developed the Leviathan, Tamar and Gaza Marine gasfilelds. Nor would it want the rival pipeline between Iran, Iraq and Syria.

One reason Netanyahu was pleased that Russian diplomacy was able to avert  the prospect of a US and French military attack on Syria ( though he praised forceful US diplomacy for bringing Russia to negotiate ) was that Israel has no interest in Assad going so soon but in a continuation of the conflict.

Natanyahu was keen to urge the US to accept Russia's deal on Syria's chemical weapons back in 2013, even though his office officially denied it, because it was lukewarm about Washington's strategy in Syria which stood to benefit Qatar and Turkey more than it.

In turn, the coup in Egypt in 2013 was supported by Israel while the US was not so initially enthusiastic, with Kerry only reaffirming its full support and sometime later when the US had to accept it as an a fait accompli, partly because of the embarrassing scale of the killing but also so as not to anger Qatar and Turkey.

The US has backed off from being too involved in the Middle East since the wihdrawal of troops from Iraq. The shale revolution and the refocusing of diplomatic attention towards the Asia Pacific region in 2011 was part of that. So Israel has a free hand with which to crush Hamas.

The reason is that despite the vocal opposition to Israel's war in Gaza, few global or regional powers have any particular interest or ability to stop it. Israel wants to destroy Hamas while it has the chance with Egypt under Sisi sealing the border and frostier relations between Iran and Hezbollah and Hamas.
Israel has seized the opportunity to finish off Hamas the better to remove its rocket capacity which was feared as something that could be unleashed against Israel's gas infrastructure in the Eastern Mediterranean. Then, it would be able to use that to put the PA a position where it could break its alliance with Hamas.
The message would then be if the PA wants to benefit from the gas revenues it and the West Bank would be better off not alligning with Hamas because there would be no advantage anymore. Netanyahu's strategy is ruthless but it seems both the US and EU powers would have little to lose if he succeeded.

The need to hedge their bets as regards Israel's war on Gaza is partly about the EU's need for energy diversification. Israel could use the LNG supplies it is set to export in future to East Asia as well to to promote its regional security by supporting Egypt and Jordan which are seen as threatened by jihadists.

It's hard to see how Israel's war in Gaza could make it particularly less secure. The only possibility of that would be if ISIS were to gain a stronger foothold in Gaza at the expense of Hamas. Ex-IDF commanders have warned of this. Yet even then, that would not change much as Netanyahu is intent on a general 'war on terror'.

The Likud government makes no distinction between Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood or ISIS: all are jihadi Islamist fanatics at a regional and global level burning with a pyschopathological obsession with destroying both Israel and Western civilisation.

As a wealthy and largely rather effective 'national security state', Israel is not going to be realistically threatened. The last suicide bombing was in 2008. That threat has been largely averted. Hamas did not get much assistance from Iran between 2011-2014.

Part of that is connected with the sectarian divisions opened up and made worse by the Syrian conflict. It remains to be seen whether Hizbollah and Iran would put more priority on their struggle against Sunni jihadists than in starting to refocus on Israel should Israel prove too successful.

Yet that is very unlikely and the reality is that Netanyahu knows that he has the best chance Israel has had in years to compel a peace entirely on his terms, one that he refers to as a 'sustainable ceasefire' or a 'sustainable quiet', and that melds the agends of energy security with a a 'war on terror' one.

Irrespective of the humanitarian cost, which Israel blames on Hamas for continuing to attempt fire rockets as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the war is set to go on till it gain the regional security it wants which is why Netanyahu made it quite clear that ‘this will be a long operation’.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Gaza, Israel and the Uses of Terror.

'Israel is being projected on the world’s TV screens and front pages as a callous, brutal monster, pounding the Gaza strip with artillery fire that hits schools, hospitals and civilian homes...They know what it looks like – but they desperately want the world to see what they see.'-Jonathan Freedland, Israel’s fears are real, but this Gaza war is utterly self-defeating, The Guardian July 25 2014
There is no reason why Israelis need to identify with the military position being taken on Gaza or to accept the routine propaganda line that the 'ground incursion' and air and naval strikes are primarily or only about protecting them from Hamas terror. Hamas rocket attacks are mostly ineffective.

The Iron Dome defence system that was constructed in 2011-12 has been seen , to use that currently popular media word, a 'game changer' in that Israel is largely safe from attacks. The determination to go for outright victory and what Netanyahu terms the 'demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip' is the policy.

The Hamas tunnels and the possibility of abductions caused real fears but they are hardly on such a scale that would justify the the degree to which the IDF has pounded Gaza. The abduction of the three Israeli teenagers was seized on as the pretext for the Netanyahu to pursue his military strategy.

As Zbigniew Brzezinski pointed out,
'When Hamas in effect accepted the notion of participation in the Palestinian leadership, it in effect acknowledged the determination of that leadership to seek a peaceful solution with Israel. That was a real option. They should have persisted in that.

Instead Netanyahu launched the campaign of defamation against Hamas, seized on the killing of three innocent Israeli kids to immediately charge Hamas with having done it without any evidence, and has used that to stir up public opinion in Israel in order to justify this attack on Gaza, which is so lethal'
The question is why. The purpose of the campaign is quite clear: the readiness to eliminate Hamas or destroy its military capacity regardless of civilian casualties is part of a strategy that aims at destroying its bargaining position following the unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah in the West Bank.

One means to effect that is to firmly secure control over the Gaza Marine gas reserves which lie 20km off the Gazan coastline and so clearly in range of potential Hamas rocket attacks .To tap these reserves is considered a vital interest in the eyes of the Israeli government and its accepted by its allies.

Many conflicts across the globe after the end of the Cold War have been about access to strategically important resources such as oil and gas ( as well, in fact, even water). The Iraq War was justified on a 'war on terror' narrative but was about geopolitics and oil. The Gaza conflict is no exception.

So the problem is that the conflict in Gaza is portrayed as one concerned on the Israeli side only with fears for its security and the mutual fear, distrust and antagonism that goes all the way back to the way Israel emerged as a nation state in 1948. That is important to understand but it is not the entire picture.

Clearly, there is a fear that if Hamas were to be aligned with the Palestinian Authority then it would stand to benefit from the gas wealth, 10% of which is earmarked for the Palestinians as part of the policy of developing the West Bank economically.

The sticking point has been that Israel has wanted first to break Hamas, then pursue a separate peace with the Palestinian Authority whereby the gas revenues would flow into their 'special funds' on condition that violence against Israel is renounced in the West Bank.

The thinking behind such a strategy, supported by Special Envoy Tony Blair, is that a developing West Bank would act as a model for Gaza and encourage Gazans and Hamas to realise that armed resistance ( i.e terrorism ) and jihadism could only see them isolated further from the region.

Evidently, the longer the 2014 conflict drags on, the more anger and bitterness amongst Palestinians is set to increase. But the fact remains that in power political terms it is irrelevant because Israel would be able to develop economically and militarily with or without the Palestinians. 

For the first time in history, Gaza and Hamas are totally isolated. Iran is advancing its regional strategy via the backing Shia governments and forces such as Hizbollah. Egypt is intent on deepening and strenthening energy and security ties with Israel no matter the domestic reaction.

The Israeli government has seen a historic window of opportunity to compel a peace deal on Hamas on their terms by using effective military force to finish it off as an effective force with bargaining power. This is the reality of the conflict of 2014 and why it could be the bloodiest yet as the stakes are so high.

Hamas has its back against the wall. The blockade, the sealing of the border with Egypt following the Sisi coup against the Muslim Brotherhood government, the increased poverty and immiseration, the lack of regional support means armed struggle is seen as vital but their capacity for it is being eroded.

Israel has nothing to lose by crushing Hamas. It's security is not going to be made worse by the ground incursion into Gaza. The EU is interested in cooperating with it in the exploitation of its gas reserves. The US is bound to back it as part of the policy of securing the Saudi-Egypt-Israel alliance.

As for Israeli citizens, most of them would be able to get on with their ordinary daily lives in a largely successful advanced consumer-capitalist land without much that thought for Gazan casualties who inhabit a very different world from them and could be considered as dying because of the stupdity of their leaders.

Certainly, that the thrust of Israeli 'public diplomacy' from Netanyahu and slightly sinister spin doctors such as Mark Regev who claim that the victims of the IDF's 'ground incursion' are not really being killed by Israel but by the Hamas policy of hiding rocket stores in civilian areas.

Israeli government claims need only have a certain degree of plausibility for them to be accepted by both the Israeli public which wants security and finds the Palestinian issue a tiresome and tedious legacy of the past, and Western leaders who are also willing to identity with Israeli war aims the better to serve their interests.

Friday, 25 July 2014

The Israel-Palestine Conflict: Reflections on Just War and Just Terror

Propaganda about the Israel-Palestine conflict often falls into two versions. One is that Israel only uses such means as is strictly necessary to defend itself against Hamas, a dastardly group of terrorist fanatics that wants to wipe Israel off the map as stated in their charter.

The second is that, on the contrary, Hamas are a dedicated resistance force representing the true will of the Gazan people against an agressive colonialist terror state and that Israel is an alien entity in the Middle East founded on a form of 'state terrorism' far worse than anything offered by the PLO or Hamas.

Neither of these two propaganda tropes lead to an understanding that there is, in fact, a dark and pyschopathological link between Israel's politicians and the Hamas rocketeers who both need the aggression and terror of the other in order to advance their respective power claims.

Terror cuts both ways. Israel is a state in which its government is ready to deploy terror tactics to advance their strategy for dealing with Hamas. Likewise, Hamas is an organisation dedicated to an armed insurgency against Israel using rocket attacks and that is also a tactic of terror.

The brutal reality is in previous confrontations in 2012, 2008-9 and, further back to the period that followed on from the war which created the Gaza Strip and Israel back in 1948, terror has been used by fanatics both sides just as it was from the outset.

The Likud government pursuing the war in Gaza at present, though termed a 'ground incursion', is directly connected to the Irgun, a Zionist paramilitary group in many ways similar in its tactics to the PLO and even Hamas. That Israel is a succesful democracy tends to obscure this.

The irony, however, as historian Mark Almond pointed out during the 2008 Israeli-Gaza conflict is that it is precisely democracy that has ratcheted up the tensions and led to a belief on both sides that the terrorism of the other justifies being tough and intransigent so as to shore up domestic support.

As Almond puts it ' both Israel and Gaza are among the few democratic parts of the Middle East. But democracy makes peace more difficult to come by. few Israeli would-be prime ministers want to appear ‘soft’ on terrorism. And Hamas won the election in Gaza by voicing its bitter resentment of Israel'.

The Israel Palestine conflict of 2014 is, as with others before it, in reality a regional conflict. Yet it tends to get portrayed as the theatre of some cosmic global struggle between good and evil. As with other conflicts it is about ethnicity and religion but also about control over resources such as water and offshore gas.

Though Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel condemns the rocket attacks as terrorism ( which they are ) the fact is that they are designed as provocations to get Israel to retaliate in precisely the way it is doing and for Hamas to portray Israel as a terrorist power ( and it is carrying out war crimes ).

The difference, of course, is that the balance of terror in 2014 more than in any previous conflict is stacked in Israel's favour due to the development of the Iron Dome defence system in 2011-2012. And this has been decisive in Israel going for outright victory and to military means to force Hamas into submission.

The usual criteria of 'intentionality' and 'proportionality' when considering whether a hostile action is just war or terror has become blurred entirely. On both sides the emphasis has been on just terror, even if the the decisive advantage lies with Israel which wants to now finish off Hamas permanently.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Why Israel Could Eliminate Hamas as a Military Force: Energy Geopolitics and Regional Power Interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.

'Why is it that Palestinian lives are not valuable enough for comment, let alone diplomatic action? For the same reason Netanyahu labelled Gaza, home to 1.8m Palestinians, a “fortress of terror”. There is a belief that Palestinians are terroristic by default'
-Jennine Abdul Khalik.
The reason why Western politicians and statesmen have been reluctant to criticise Israel or even refer to its attacks on Gaza as being disproportionate ( as was the case in the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon ) is that business and energy interests trump humanitarian considerations.

Israel is a nuclear armed state and has been emboldened to finish off Hamas as a military force in Gaza with the tacit acceptance of the US and Britain because it is set to become a significant exporter of gas after large reserves where discovered off the Israeli coast in 2010.

The Gaza Marine gas reserves, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), hold about 1.6 trillion cubic feet in gas, and state "offshore Gaza territory may hold additional energy resources.". The license to exploit Gaza Marine is held by the BG Group ( British Gas ).

The Eastern Mediterranean gas reserves controlled by Israel have made its commanding geopolitical position more secure as the EU states in particular would like to diversify their supply of gas away from Russia. But others are also vying to benefit from future LNG exports, including Russia and Australia

The hard reality is that none of the great powers have any interest in displeasing Israel or 'rocking the boat'. This is not merely because of the interests of the energy corporations. Energy diversification is bound up with global power politics and not being too dependent upon any one nation for gas exports.

Netanyahu has realised that with the Egyptian coup of 2013 and the Syrian conflict, Hamas is isolated from having any support in the Middle East, except a certain amount of diplomatic backing from Turkey and Qatar who have aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood to promote their energy interests.

In Syria, Turkey and Qatar back a Muslim Brotherhood government-in-waiting to replace Assad so as to promote a gas pipeline that would have connected the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf to EU markets or, at best, prevent Iran from exporting its gas through to the Eastern Mediterranean via Syria.

Yet despite vocal opposition from Turkey and Erdogan to Israel's 'ground incursion' into Gaza, neither Turkey not Qatar would directly back Hamas in the way Iran did in the past. Apart from the fact Qatar would be wary of a hostile reaction from Saudi Arabia, Turkey has interests in cooperating with Israel.

On Kurdistan, both Israel and Turkey had mutual interests in having Kurdistan export oil via Turkey and also on cooperation on a Mediterranean Pipeline Project (Medstream). What Turkey would not want is Israel to develop its offshore gas by 2017 in a way that would bypass it.

The determination not to be left out of the development of Eastern Mediterranean gas reserves and export routes is at the centre of Turkey's regional ambitions. It explains why Hamas has no interest in an Egyptian led ceasfire agreement and why Erdogan has slammed Sisi as a 'tyrant'.

The predicament of the Palestinian in Gaza is that their fate is tied up with cynical power political calculations and energy geopolitics. One reason there have been calls for Blair to be removed as Special Envoy is that he is regarded as too close to the Israeli-Egyptian alliance at the expense of Turkey and Qatar.

The outlook for Gaza is bleak. Israel has every interest in intensifying the blockade of Gaza from land, air and sea the better to crush Hamas and exploit the Gaza Marine gas reserves as soon as possible so as to increase its bargaining position in the region.

The exploitation of the Levant Basin has run up against certain problems as well as squabbles with other Eastern Mediterranean powers. With a looming 'energy crunch' forecast for 2015, Israel is determined to secure the Gaza Marine reserves as a 'stop gap' without needing to pay the market price.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Fate of Palestine in the New Great Game for the Energy Resources of the Eastern Mediterranean.

'Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has signalled that the offensive against Gaza will intensify still further. "The operation will be expanded until the goal is achieved," he said after a meeting of his security cabinet'
The goal of the Israeli military operation is said to be the destruction of Hamas's capacity to launch rockets from Gaza and to destroy the tunnels through which terror attacks are made possible. Yet the reality is that, in contrast to the 2008 conflict, Israel intendstotal victory in destroying Hamas militarily.

Hamas has been isolated by the impact of both the broadening out of the Syrian Conflict into a Sunni-Shia sectarian struggle in the course of 2012 and the Egyptian coup of 2013. Both have contributed to Gaza being cut off from supplies and finance and so desperate to shore up its flagging support base.

The Syrian Conflict fractured the unity of Hezbollah and Hamas in their joint struggle against Israel and led to Iranian funds for Hamas at first being slashed back in 2012. Even when Hamas courted Iran once more by not taking sides on Syria, supplies have not been able to get through.

The Egyptian Coup led to a government close to the Muslim Brotherhood being overthrown by General Sisi and the closure of tunnels into Gaza from the Egyptian side as Israel and Egypt have strengthened their security cooperation in trying to crush jihadist insurgents on the Sinai Peninsula.

The strengthened alliance between Egypt and Israel is crucially connected with the determination of Israel to exploit the gas reserves off the Gaza coast, the profits of which would benefit not only Israel but also the Palestinian Authority. By decisively destroying Hamas, the PA would have to negotiate on Israeli terms.

If the PA under Abbas refused to accept the destruction of Hamas, then the Palestinian elite would need to forget about having any share in Gaza's offshore gas wealth. The West Bank would continue to face economic problems and the region would miss out on their cut of the gas wealth provided through services.

Israel's discovery in 2010 of huge reserves of natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean should last half a century. One reason Hamas has no backers and there has been no condemnation of the IDF operation is that EU ministers hope that Israeli gas could help diversify supply away from Russia.

The US and Britain follow the same position that 'Israel has the right to defend itself' from Hamas rocket attacks and to be indifferent to IDF incursions ( even if wary that the Palestinian deaths make 'public diplomacy' difficult ) because both US and UK energy corporations have an important stake in the gas.

The gas reserves off Gaza are worth $4bn and were developed by the BG Group ( formerly British Gas ). The Leviathan gas fields off Israel's coast are being tapped by an energy consortium including Israel’s Ratio and Derek Drilling and US-headquartered Noble Energy. 

Simon Henderson in one study wrote,
'There is little doubt that the discovery off Israel of the Tamar field (10 tcf) in 2009 and the Leviathan field (18 tcf) in 2010 changed perceptions in Jerusalem, making Israel more confident of the strength of its negotiating hand. In late 2011 and early 2012, there was renewed Israeli interest in devising a way to exploit the natural gas of Gaza Marine.
'The level of international diplomatic interest in the development of the field increased in 2013 with both the East Jerusalem-based Office of the Quartet Representative, led by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry focusing attention on the positive aspects of Palestinian economic development. In October 2013, an unnamed Israeli official was quoted as saying that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government was “very supportive” of the project'.
Faced with an energy shortage and problems with disputes with Syria, Lebanon and Cyprus, it is said Israel's gas potential would not be ready before 2020. Even so, the EU is interested in seeing Eastern Mediterranean gas run from Israel via Cyprus, a "second Southern Corridor” to that running via Turkey.

One reason Turkey is the only regional power to openly condemn Israel's incursion into Gaza and to regard Hamas as an ally is it does not wish Israel's gas to run via Cyprus instead of through Turkey as Erdogan has a neo-Ottoman vision of his nation as the main east-west energy hub.

Qatar, likewise, had interests in backing Hamas because of its regional strategy of building a gas pipeline via Syria towards Turkey, one reason both powers are so keen to back Sunni jihadists against Assad the better to advance it against both Iran's rival plan for a pipeline via Syria and Israel's energy plans.

Hence Israel has gained from the Syrian Conflict and has no interest in taking any particular side in that struggle as neither the Turkey-Qatar plan, backed by the West, nor the Iranian 'axis of resistance', which has been backed by Russia's support for Assad, is in in its interest so long as it is yet to develop its gasfields.

The problem for the EU is that a deterioration of Israeli-Turkish relations would stall plans to export Israeli gas either via Turkey or even Cyprus and could leadTurkey to strengthen its cooperation with Russia, thus increasing Moscow's influence in the Black Sea region.

US diplomacy from John Kerry is going to centre around trying to broker a deal between Qatar and Turkey, allies in the struggle against Assad in Syria and his backer in Iran, and Israel and Egypt on the other. Egypt has sought Israeli gas to end its fuel crisis and restore economic stability and the security of the Sinai Peninsula.

With strengthened cooperation between Egypt and Israel to crush the jihadist insurgency in north east Egypt, the security of Israel's border with Gaza and of the Sinai pipeline. Two days ago militants blew up the Sinai pipeline. So destroying both the jihadists in Egypt and in Gaza is considered part of a joint security effort.

The naval blockade from 2007 positions the Israeli navy 65km from the Gazan coast because Hamas rockets have a range of only 50km. The gas reserves are 20km off the Gazan coast which makes the necessity to eliminate the rockets and the capacity to import or to make them through smuggling in the parts a geostrategic imperative.

A New Great Game is on across the Middle East for supplying energy to the EU which consumes 25% of the globe's gas supplies but produces only 2%. In this ruthless and pathological power political struggle, the Palestinians of Gaza are the ultimate losers because their struggle is merely a bargaining chip in a broader geopolitical contest.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Tony Blair's Role as Special Envoy for the Middle East Quartet.

'Last week he was in the Middle East....He says he is "saddened and angry" by what is happening in Gaza. He says he wants to see a two state solution. Whatever you think of Iraq, we did lead in the world, he says'.
Blair is using this twentieth anniversary of his becoming Labour leader in 1994 to spin his legacy as some far seeing political visionary whose approach retains 'clarity of purpose'. Yet Blair is going to be remembered for Iraq, a war that cost billions, and creating a debt fuelled economy that crashed in 2007-8.

The attempt to use his position as Special Envoy to the Middle East Quartet to 'frame the issues' on the need for a continued global war on Islamist terrorism everywhere, as though it were one seamless totalitarian threat, shows that he remains attached to discredited 'neoconservative' ideas in foreign policy.

Even so, Blair's ideology is what unites his position on Iraq with that of Gaza. The agenda is to first support Israel in crushing Hamas the better to force Palestinian leaders into agreeing to an Israeli settlement in which the gas wealth of Gaza would be used to benefit Israel first then Palestinians.

The same idea of 'trickle down' economics was behind Blair's support for the Iraq War" invade it, get rid of the dictator, allow Iraq's oil wealth to fund the reconstruction of the nation while allowing the west to diversify its oil supply. The result was a greater war within Iraq between those vying for its oil wealth.

Likewise, in Gaza, Blair's idea as a 'man of peace' invested with the duty to create 'stability' is in advocating Israeli control over the gas according to a deal he brokered back in 2011 whereby the BG Group ( formerly British Gas ) would sell the Gazan gas reserves to Israel instead of Egypt.

First and foremost, it is as a broker of gas deals Blair makes himself useful. It is secondary whether than actually creates peace because that could only happen if Hamas were to surrender authority and control over Gaza and not as a consequence of any concession Israel could make.

When the current conflict between Israel and Hamas broke out, Blair made it clear there was no chance of peace between the two. As Blair made quite plain “[There will be] ”no trust on either side between Hamas and Israel. That is not going to happen in the immediate term and possibly ever”.

Blair essentially supports the policy of Israeli PM Netanyahu in using a military solution to eliminate Hamas in Gaza as he sees Hamas as a terrorist organisation no less than ISIS or Al Qaida and so no less fundamentally evil than in having a dictator such as Saddam Hussein in control of resources in Iraq.

Egypt, of course, is different for Blair because Sisi is a secular authoritarian and not a theocratic or ideologically fanatical dictator. One reason Blair supported the coup was that it was necessary to create 'stability' and to get the economy functioning and the fuel crisis Egypt faces solved in alliance with Israel.

To that end, Blair supports a reinvigorated Israeli-Egyptian security and energy nexus as does the US and EU states, hoping that Israeli gas could be used to help European nations avoid being overdependent upon Russia for gas and to enrich the elites in the PA so as to get them onside in the 'peace process'.

However, Blair also believes that the exploitation of Israeli gas reserves and the elimination of Hamas would benefit Russia as well. One reason Israel has been able and willing to try to finish off Hamas is that it lacks regional support following the coup in Egypt in 2013 and the Syrian conflict.

In 2014 Russia's Gazprom was set to help develop Gaza's gas field.Israel has taken a more pragmatic stance towards Russia in recent years as it discovered its own gas reserves and sought cooperation on energy projects. This is why Blair advocated that Russia and the West join forces against 'radical Islam'.

For Blair this blending of tough realpolitik and potential wealth creation through the exploitation of resources is a "progressive" foreign policy. In the short term, there may well be blood and tears, yet in the longer term there is no alternative and wealth and consumerism is the only way to overcome the past.

While Blair is routinely condemned by British politicians for joining the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 ,his thinking and the role of resources in foreign policy strategy remain close to the way Western politicians still approach geopolitical struggles across the globe. After all, he is Special Envoy for a reason.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Why There Will Be No Immediate Peace between Israel and Gaza.

'We Palestinians and Israelis have experienced many destructive wars and the result is always the same: more deaths, more terrible injuries, more bloodshed, more animosity and more hatred. What do we expect to be the result of any war?
The current conflict has led to at least 260 people being killed, more than 1,600 severely wounded, more than 2,300 Israeli air strikes, more than 1,300 rockets fired from Gaza and at least 600 houses and institutions demolished and destroyed'.As a father who lost his children in Gaza, I call for an end to this bloodshed, The Guardian Friday July 17 2014
The conflict is intractable and set to continue because religious and ethnic divisions, as well as the history of mistrust and enmity, is being intensified by a psychopathological struggle for the offshore gas off the Eastern Mediterranean that Israel wants a Hamas led Gaza to have no stake in.

Israel was emboldened enough by the prize of gas discovered by British Gas in 1999 off the coast of Gaza back in 2008 to want to destroy Hamas. Analyst Mark Turner, argues Israel sought by its siege and military attacks to want to "eliminate Hamas" and prevent any alliance with the PA in the West Bank.

With the discovery of the Leviathan and Tamar gas fields in 2010, Israel is set to be self sufficient in gas for 50 years and to be in a position of both energy independence and to export as LNG at least 40% of its reserves to the global market. This should put Israel in a commanding position.

Moreover, by being a major gas producer the EU states would have no substantial objection to Israel doing as it requires in Gaza, having already turned a blind eye to General Sisi's 2013 coup in Egypt and the strengthening once more of security and energy interests.

Hamas is not going to be allowed any benefit from the offshore gas off Gaza via Western influence either. This is one essential reason both the US and Britain remains largely indifferent to the current crisis and repeats stock phrases about 'Israel's right to defend itself'.
The gas field ( as with that off Egypt ) was discovered by the BG Group which holds the license and Both Tony Blair as Special Envoy to the Middle East Quartet and John Kerry believe could be used to fund the Fatah controlled West Bank, despite the fact the gas reserves lie off Hamas controlled Gaza.

Blair is employed mostly as an advocate of energy and business interests and because he has a talent for high sounding platitudes that make it appear as though there is a peace process “There will be.. no trust on either side between Hamas and Israel. That is not going to happen in the immediate term and possibly ever,”

Israel wants to tap this gas irrespective of the Palestinians in Gaza and so it the with the area cut off from Egypt and Iranian supplies it is more isolated than as ever before. The West seems content to let Israel get on with the job. Only Turkey has been vocally critical of Israel's military incursion into Gaza.

EU ministers have discussed the role of Israeli and Cypriot gas as part of their strategy of energy diversification, something given greater urgency following the crisis and conflict in Ukraine and Russia's attempt to check a Qatar-Turkey gas pipeline by backing Assad in Syria against the Sunni jihadists supported by the Western Powers.

Britain stands to benefit as the BG Group's dominant position in the offshore Egyptian gas field concession means it could play a key role in importing gas from Israel into Egypt, a prospect that could restore confidence after what William Hague called the "turbulence" of political events in 2013.

Egypt needs gas imports after its domestic supplies peaked and in order to fuel economic growth once more. As Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Sherif Ismail stated on July 6 “Whatever is in Egypt’s interest must be implemented immediately as we are dealing with an energy crisis”.

This explains why Israel and Hamas have refused to back down in the July 2014 conflict. Israel realises Hamas is weak due to the combined impact of the Egyptian coup, which removed the Muslim Brotherhood as a regional player, and the Syrian Civil War which has led sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shia.

Israel wants to press home its advantage and crush Hamas the better to get it to give in and sue for peace wholly on Israel's terms. If Hamas chooses not to, Israel is indifferent. It has no interest in a Hamas Gaza benefitting from the gas wealth ( which it fears could be used to fund terrorism against it).

Yet for Israel the blood price is minimal so far and Bloomberg reported that the IDF military activity has had no impact upon shares in the leading Israeli energy firms such as Delek Group Ltd and Avner Oil Exploration, in fact, on the contrary, their share prices have increased.

Israel faced a potential energy crisis until 2010. As Egypt has too, the determination to deal with Islamist insurgents in Sinai and Hamas is part of a drive towards a mutually beneficial partnership in which security comes first and then the gas riches believed to be a 'Gift from God'.

The danger for Israel and for Gaza is that the failure of Hamas could lead to the rise of rival Islamist groups aligned to ISIS as Salafist entities such as Al Dalwa Al-Islamia try to propagate their role in the rocket attacks, having claimed to have led one against the town of Bnei Netzarim.

Should ISIS affiliates in Gaza link up with those in Sinai, the struggle could blow up into a broader regionwide conflagration set to get worse under the impact of increased global heating and recurring drought, economic collapse, resource struggles, overpopulation and male unemployment.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Israel and Gaza: The War to Control Gas Resources.

'Israel and Hamas agreed to a UN request to halt hostilities for five hours on humanitarian grounds. The Israeli army announced it would halt its bombardment of Gaza between 10am (0700 GMT) and 3pm (1200 GMT) local time'
The ceasefire can not last because neither side has any interest in peace, other than to try to prove that it is the other who is the real aggressor. Israel has refused to negotiate with Hamas, which calls a 'terrorist organisation', and rejected the unity government approach to Gaza and the West Bank.

The reason why Israel was prepared to deal with Fatah but not with Hamas is connected to the conflict over Gaza being one crucially concerned with Israel's determination to control offshore supplies of gas in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Palestinian authorities are vying with Israel for a stake in these resources.

The violence of July 2014 follows a similar pattern to that back in 2006 when Hamas won elections in Gaza, thus setting off a tit for tat conflict involving rocket strikes and disproportionate Israeli retaliation. Back then , it was a British Gas deal with the PA that Israel sought to scupper.

The discovery of large reserves of offshore gas off Israel in 2010, however, has proved a 'game changer'. Israel no longer needs or requires peace with a troublesome Gaza. The latest readiness of the IDF to use ground forces there reflects the fact that its resource discoveries have made it more powerful.

The IDF has felt emboldened by the discovery of gas and determined to grab the gas reserves down in Gaza too lest they provide revenue for future terrorist attacks on Israel. Mark Turner has even claimed the IDF was in 2006 ready to "eliminate Hamas" as a "a viable political entity in Gaza".

It seems likely Israeli leaders think that now is the best time to finish the job as regards Gaza. Cut off from Egypt after Sisi crushed the Muslim Brotherhood and closed down the smuggling tunnels, Hamas no longer even gets sufficient funding from Iran due to sectarian tensions created by the Syrian Civil War.

Israel has a carte blanche to impose its will as neither the US nor EU states want to be on the wrong side of Israel when it starts to export gas which it could fetch a higher price for in the Far East. EU commissioners and the US have emphasised the need to diversify gas supplies away from Russia.

Tony Blair's role as Special Envoy to the Quartet is to advance these gas interests without involving Hamas or the people living in the Gaza Strip. One reason Blair advocated bombing Syria was as a means to counter Iranian and Russian influence in Syria as it also has offshore gas.

The US backs Israel because it wants to check Russian influence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Even Turkey's criticism of Israel is hardly likely to make any difference. Turkey aspires to be an east-west energy transfer hub and Israeli gas could eventually help towards realising that geopolitical ambition.

In turn, Russia has no interest in alienating Israel because it hopes to co-operate with both Egypt and Israel in the business of benefitting from sales of gas to lucrative EU markets. Russia has an interest in pushing the PA to accept the development of Gaza's gas without Hamas.

Psychopathological struggles for control over resources such as oil and gas are going to be a recurrent feature of the 21st century as global supplies struggle to keep pace with worldwide demand. In these predatory conflicts, those such as the Palestinian Gazans are set to be the losers.

Yet, as the evidence in Syria and Iraq demonstrates, where marginalised groups in overpopulated regions exist and where there is high unemployment and sectarian religious fanaticism, there is the will to join jihadist groups of the utmost ruthlessness such as ISIS.

Given that the Israel-Palestine conflict is developing into a resource war, the chances are that should Hamas be eliminated as a force in Gaza, then ISIS would stand to benefit more than it has so far and there would be more carnage as Israel moved in to eliminate the new threat.

That's why former IDF Brigadier-General Michael Herzog has criticised the military actions on the basis it could lead to ISIS gaining ground, as it has already in Sinai in neighbouring Egypt. Permanent war could be the price to be paid for controlling resources. He said,
“One way in which in an Israeli military operation could backfire is by shaking Hamas’ control on the ground to the point that it allowed other factions, including jihadists, to come to the fore....At least Hamas provides an address – you don’t have that with the jihadist factions. They aren’t dominant right now, but Hamas no longer controls Gaza as firmly as it used to, and it if was seriously weakened they could take advantage.”
But even with over 200 dead in Gaza so far, the resource imperative is considered too vital an interest to have qualms as to the civilian death toll. Indeed, on July 13 2014 a Bloomberg Report made it clear the IDF's actions had not affected the share prices of Israeli energy companies.

Israel, Gaza and the Geopolitics of Energy in the Eastern Mediterranean.

'Palestinian resistance is often criticised as futile given the grotesque power imbalance between the two sides. But Hamas, which attracts support more for its defiance than its Islamism, has been strengthened by the events of the past week'-Seumas Milne Gaza: this shameful injustice will only end if the cost of it rises, The Guardian, July 16 2014
Hamas has not been strenghtened. The tactic is to fire off rockets into Israel, get a disproportionate Israeli response and recreate the community of martyrdom led by it against other Islamist rivals vying for power. This has become especially important given how cut off from the region Hamas has become.

The Syrian Civil War has fractured the unity of the coalition against Israel as sectarian tensions between Hamas and Hezbollah have led to the ending of funding from Iran. With the removal of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood government,supplies to Gaza from Egypt have been cut off too.

Milne goes on to claim, 
'as it has shown it can hit back across Israel – while Abbas, dependent on an imploded “peace process”, has been weakened still further.The conflict’s eruptions are certainly coming thicker and faster. global opinion has never been more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
Global opinion has no power. Israel is a nuclear armed state and has shown it is ruthless enough to impose a policy of vengeance designed to try and prove 'resistance is futile'. Israel remains a trading partner with EU states and the US and has, moreover, since 2010 become a centre of energy developments.

The discovery of huge reserves of offshore gas in the Eastern Mediterranean is set to make Israel energy independent an indispensible partner for states such as Egypt and Jordan as well as EU states wanting to reduce their dependence upon Russia as Europe's main supplier of gas. 

While Israel's gas should embolden it, as its economic security would not be affected by the way it chooses to deal with the Palestinian question. Plans for LNG terminals in EU territory of Cyprus have been mooted or else an underground pipeline via Turkey should better relations be created.

The US made moves in the Eastern Mediterranean in May 2014 to try to bring about a final settlement of the dispute between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus when Vice President Biden visited the island, the first time for a senior American statesman in half a century.

In the geopolitical scheme of things, the Palestinians of Gaza are not considered to be especially important. One reason Tony Blair is the Special Envoy of the Quartet is precisely because he effectively would keep the current situation as it is by dressing up realpolitik interests inthe language of 'democracy promotion'.

Israel's discovery of offshore gas was a 'game changer'. With Hamas losing its power and funding, its rocket attacks are a last ditch attempt to shore up their power and influence. Yet Israel's belligerent determination to deal with Gaza could backfire should ISIS gain more support in the area.

Hamas, in fact, already ceded control over rocket attacks to the Salah e-Din Brigades of the Popular Front. With a full scale insurgency in neighbouring Sinai Peninsula in Egypt dragging on, many Palestinian Gazans could join in with ISIS as a means to break out from their containment in a huge overpopulated 'ghetto'.