EcoBeat Staff – We need a new approach to peace between Israel and Palestine. For years, the international community has failed to provide a new solution to this decades-old crisis. These treaties typically focus on a two-state solution and to some extent involve a freeze on new Israeli settlements in the West Bank. This has failed time and time again, yet no alternative solution has been offered. I believe that the world has overlooked one of its greatest opportunities to stop the violence: energy interdependence.
Now, anyone familiar with Israel’s energy markets realize that the country currently relies on Egypt’s Arish-Asheklon pipeline for much of its energy supply. Recent natural gas discoveries off the coast of Israel represent a significant opportunity for the nation to become a net energy exporter in the coming decade. The Mari-B fields were discovered in 2000, followed by the start of production in the Tamar fields in late 2013. Perhaps the greatest reserve yet to be tapped is the Leviathan gas field, located 80 miles off the coast and originally estimated to contain 19 Tcf of recoverable natural gas. Just this past week, the Leviathan partners announced that they had underestimated the size of the reserve by a full 16%.
The Noa reserve is another natural gas field located almost equidistant from Israel and Gaza, leading Hamas to claim Palestinians have a right to a portion of the reserves because it lands within their exclusive economic zone. A similar issue exists surrounding the Gaza Marine gas reserves. Negotiations between Israel, the PA and Hamas have failed on a number of occasions to create a solution to this issue. In the end, Israel essentially wants control of the natural gas flow and Hamas sees that as a blatant attempt to steal natural resources from within its borders.
So you are probably asking: What does this have to do with Israeli Palestinian peace?
Regardless of how you slice up these fields, Israel will face significant security threats from Hamas in transporting the natural gas to potential markets. Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have little to no means of creating any economic output under the current system. This plays in to their feeling of helplessness, trapped on a fraction of their land with no way of bettering their economic opportunities.
Step back and imagine for a second what might happen if Israel and Palestine took a new approach on a joint venture to exploit these reserves?
This new solution might look something like this:
Israel receives the majority of the natural gas from the Gaza Marine and Noa fields for the first 3-5 years while it trains Palestinians to work on the gas rigs. As the years go on, Israel will have increased production on larger reserves (Tamar, Leviathan) within its exclusive economic zone, making these two fields less important to its energy security. Therefore, the proportion of natural gas that Israel receives from these fields would decrease annually, while the Palestinian share of natural gas would increase annually. This would create an environment in which both sides benefit from safe and secure transportation of natural gas throughout the region while simultaneously building trust. Any damage to the gas rigs would be destructive to the energy security of both states.
If Hamas were to attack Israel after signing this agreement, the Palestinian people would lose out on a major economic opportunity, leading to a potential fallout of support for the extremist organization. Just the same, if Israel were to attack Palestine, it would face significant challenges transporting the gas. One could even imagine a scenario in which the UN steps in with sanctions on whichever side is responsible for breaking the agreement, further incentivizing interdependence in these gas fields.
While this plan is not without flaws, it seems time that the international community began to think outside of the box on ways to end the violence between Israel and Palestine. Proposing the same two-state “solution” time and time again is a waste when neither side trusts the other enough to exist as neighbors. Yet, if the energy markets, and therefore economies, of these two states were to be interdependent in some way, one can begin to imagine an over-arching solution coming to fruition.