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.

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