Friday, 22 August 2014

Israel-Gaza and the Potential for Protracted War in 2014.

'The Palestine issue is separate from the problems in Iraq and Syria, which are making the headlines today, but it continues to spread its poison.Israel wants demilitarisation of Gaza; Hamas wants the blockade ended. Neither objective is realistic'. Oliver Miles
The Israel Gaza War of 2014 is part of an older continuity of conflict dating back to 1948. What has made in potentially intractable is the wrangle over the fate of the Gaza Marine offshore gas reserves and the threat Hamas could pose to Israel's national energy security.

Hamas today claims to have fired two rockets at Israel's gas rigs in the Noa field, one reason Israel is adamant the naval blockade would not be lifted until the Gaza Strip is demilitarised. Israel fears that not only rockets but boats could be used to try to attack its offshore gas infrastructure.

Israel and Egypt face an energy crisis and the defeat of Hamas is considered apiece with the coup in Egypt in 2013 and crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood so as to preserve the joint security nexus upon which 'stability' and economic growth could continue. Egypt is, at present, enduring regular power cuts.

Israeli gas from the Tamar gas field is due to be exported to Egypt but, as Simon Henderson points out, fears remain that Hamas operatives or rocket attacks could pose a threat. The US corporation Noble Energy signed a $60bn contract to pump gas to Egypt a few hours ago.

Egypt needs Israeli gas to avert continued power cuts, having used up much of its domestic gas through sales to Israel for under the market price, one reason for both the fuel crisis and the revolt against Mubarak in 2011. This is why Egyptian peace terms have offered Hamas little.

Hamas claimed in the ceasefire talks that giving up the armed jihad was 'inconceivable' but for Israel the time to get what Netanyahu terms 'sustainable peace' has never been better. Iran no longer supports Hamas due to tensions over the Syrian conflict and the fact Hizbollah is fighting the Muslim Brotherhood

So one reason Israel could pursue a military solution to Hamas is that Hamas only has Qatar as its sole ally when Qatar is also a Western ally and the Western Powers are embroiled in trying to stop the spread of IS. The Free Syria Army and Muslim Brotherhood are no longer much of a force in Syria.

From 2007, Israel had to take Hamas into account as regards Gaza gas. With Fatah and Hamas at war with each other because Hamas was resentful that 'their' gas was going to benefit Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, Israel could hope to detach the two areas of Palestine to impose its way.

One reason was that there was a view that Gazan gas could not be used to enrich Hamas because of its potential to fund terrorist activity against Israel. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made the dilemma plain in a memorandum written in 2007,
"It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement.”
On top of that the struggle to control the gas reserves of the Eastern Mediterranean and energy routes explain why the international powers,-the US, Russia and the EU-and regional powers have not been able to come together and mediate effectively so as to provide a way out of crisis as it reaches an impasse.

The EU aligns with Israel because it would seek to benefit from Eastern Mediterranean gas in order to diversify supplies away from depending on Russia. With Libya in turmoil and Qatari supplies of LNG potentially menaced by Iranian control of the Straights of Hormuz, Israeli gas would be a boon.

With Russia vying for a stake in exploiting the Gaza Marine gas, the EU and US would prefer Israel to be in charge of exploiting the gas, so that it could help the EU reduce dependence upon Russia through importing gas via Cyprus, the PA has been trying to strike deals with Gazprom.

A European Parliament report in April made this clear,
“Global actors are ready to exploit the Eastern Mediterranean [gas field’s] strategic implications..Russia aims to safeguard its gas monopoly, the United States to support its business interest, and Europe to increase its energy security and reduced dependence on Russia in light of the Crimea crisis.”
The report states, that the EU should “back the strategic triangle of Israel, Cyprus and Turkey as a first step towards the construction of an Eastern Mediterranean energy corridor.” The reason for the lack of EU pressure on Israel or attempts to mediate is due to energy concerns.

A protracted war could be on its way.

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