How Will the New Egyptian Gas Discovery Affect Israel

Egypt was an exporter of natural gas, and she had natural gas reserves of approximately 2 trillion cubic meters. However due to falling production and rising domestic demand for natural gas, she became a net importer. In August 2015 the Italian energy giant ENI discovered in Egyptian waters a new natural gas field which holds approximately 1 trillion cubic meters ( approximately 30 trillion cubic feet). Not too impressive when compared to Saudi Arabia’s 8 trillion cubic meters, to Turkmenistan’s 10 trillion c.m., to Qatar’s 25 trillion c.m. , to Iran’s 33 trillion c.m, or to Russia’s 50 trillion c.m., but a huge discovery in absolute terms. The European Union consumes approximately 450 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year. Egypt consumes approximately 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year.

Note that according to BP the Russian gas reserves have fallen due to overexploitation, and they are almost at the same level with the Iranian ones, but most sites use the estimate of 50 trillion c.m., and that’s why I use this figure too, even though I believe the BP estimate is more reliable.

In the last decade Israel has discovered approximately 1 trillion cubic meters of natural gas in its waters i.e. the Leviathan and the Tamar gas fields. The plan was that Israel would export its natural gas to Egypt and Jordan, in order for Egypt to meet her rising domestic demand, and for Jordan to substitute her imports of Egyptian gas. That was very important for Israel, not only financially, but also geopoliticaly, because it had something that Egypt and Jordan needed, and that was cheap natural gas. In the middle of the 70s Egypt passed from the Soviet to the American sphere of influence, and Egypt had to make peace with Israel, since Israel was an American ally. But the hate of the Egyptian people for Israel never died. The Egyptians never forget their defeat in the 1967 and the 1973 wars. Therefore it was very important for Israel to have something that Egypt and Jordan needed.

For now, Egypt’s socialist dictator al-Sisi and Israel face Turkey and Qatar as common enemies, but also Iran, and therefore they have a motive to cooperate against the Islamists who are supported by these countries. For instance the Islamists attack both the Egyptians and the Israelis from Gaza. See map 1.

Map 1

Map of Gaza Israel and Egypt

Israel’s cheap natural gas could enhance the alliance between Israel and Egypt, despite Egypt’s hate for Israel. In the summer of 2014 Israel signed multi-billion contracts with Egypt and Jordan for huge exports of natural gas, and that infuriated Turkey, Iran and Qatar, and they attacked Israel through Hamas in Gaza, starting the Gaza war of July 2014. For more details for the natural gas agreement between Israel, Egypt and Jordan, and the war that followed in Gaza in July 2014, see “The Israel-Egypt-Jordan Natural Gas Agreement and the July 2014 War in Gaza

As you can read at the following Haaretz article, titled “Egypt Gas Find Could Shake Up Israel’s Energy Plans”, August 2015, Egypt’s new discovery could affect Israel’s energy policy, because the Israelis planned to use this gas to provide Egypt and Jordan with cheap gas. Haaretz is Israel’s oldest newspaper which belongs to the political left.

However I must add that the new Egyptian discovery enhances the chances of the East Med Pipeline project, which is a pipeline from East Mediterranean to Europe, bypassing Turkey. This pipeline would be supplied with gas from Israel, Cyprus and Egypt. The problem is that these three countries do not have too much gas. A remedy to this problem could be the participation of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the project, but they would have to recognize Israel as a state. This would be easier for Saudi Arabia, which is already cooperating with Israel against Iran, and much harder for Qatar, which is an ally of Turkey. Qatar needs Turkey as a shield against Saudi Arabia and Iran who are putting too much pressure on Qatar. However given the current alliances, if the East Med was to go ahead, it would generate a great deal of rockets and bombs for Israel, because it would hurt the interests of Turkey, Qatar, Iran. The East Med pipeline would also hurt the Russian economic interests.

Map 2

Map of East Med Pipeline

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