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.

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