By Robert Inlakesh – Oct 21, 2022
Reports have emerged indicating that a deal between the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, over the extraction of natural gas that is located off the coast of the besieged Gaza Strip, could be within reach. Although this has been hailed as a positive development by Ramallah and Cairo, the issue could cause more harm than good and amount to the theft of Palestinian resources.
Talks are reportedly underway, following a maritime border demarcation agreement was that reached between Lebanon and Israel, to unlock natural gas reserves, in both the Gaza Marine 1 and 2 off-shore gas fields. On the surface this would seem to be a positive development for the Palestinian people suffering in Gaza, however, there are complications. According to some reports, a deal may be within reach by the end of this year, or early 2023, and could see the potential of 7 billion dollars worth of profits being made and heading to the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Treasury.
In September of 2000, then Palestinian Authority President, Yasser Arafat, triumphantly announced the discovery of natural gas as a “gift from God” and had contracted British Gas (BG) to both explore and extract the natural gas from Gaza’s waters. Despite claims from members of the Israeli Knesset, stating that the PA was not a real State and therefore could not sign contracts of such a nature for gas extraction, the 1995 Oslo II Agreement had clearly stipulated that the Palestinian Authority had legal jurisdiction within 20 nautical miles of the Gaza coast. Yam Thetis, a US-Israeli consortium that worked on developing gas projects for Israel, was behind most of the protest statements against Palestinian gas extraction rights at the time. Despite this, then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, had given the green-light for BG exploration.
When the Second Intifada (Palestinian Uprising) began in late 2000, the hopes of Palestinian gas extraction were essentially destroyed as Israel imposed sanctions on the Palestinian Authority and a de facto control over the newly discovered Palestinian gas fields. In 2006, the political party known as Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in a landslide victory. Despite the elections being praised by former US President Jimmy Carter as “free and fair”, the West and Israel rejected the elections (in the same way we are seeing many internationally observed legitimate processes rejected today) calling Hamas a terrorist organization and imposed economic sanctions and a siege on the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority, which was supposed to fall under the legislative control of Hamas following the Palestinian democratic national elections, was held onto in an authoritarian manner by the Fatah Party that had formerly been elected to power. The PA Presidential elections were cancelled and the head of PA’s Preventative Security Service (PA Intelligence), Mohammed Dahlan, organized a US-Israeli backed coup attempt in the Gaza Strip, to remove Hamas from power. The coup attempt was defeated by Hamas and Gaza fell under its control, with the PA officially remaining a Fatah dominated organization operated out of the West Bank. After the attempted coup had failed, in 2007 Israel imposed an even tighter military blockade on the Gaza Strip.
By 2008, Israel had done away with any regard for international law and essentially seized the Gaza gas fields, placing them under Israeli control and restricting Palestinian access to their own seas, regularly changing the amount of miles that fishermen could travel out before they would be shot at by the Israeli navy. Now that BG was out of the picture, and Gaza isolated under a Western-Egyptian-Israeli imposed siege and economic sanctions, it was easy to simply do away with any talk of gas extraction.
For years there has been talk of Egypt consulting the Palestinian Authority, a quasi-governmental organization based in Ramallah (West Bank), on the potential demarcation of the Palestinian-Egyptian maritime border. Until now, such discussions have not been taken seriously, yet are being advertised as a great venture with which Gaza and the West Bank will benefit from an Egyptian company working on extraction.
The problem, however, is that any gas supply to the Gaza Strip, as is being advertised as a potential benefit of a PA-Egypt deal, will have to pass through Israel first and without the lifting of the siege, Israel will undoubtably benefit financially in some fashion from the process of sending the Gas to Gaza. There is also the added problem that, due to Israel’s siege, Gaza — which according to the UN has been unlivable as of 2020 — will be at the mercy of Israel for receiving its own gas. This means that in the event of any conflict, the Israelis can simply shut off the supply and deprive the Palestinians, civilians and military alike, of their natural resources as a form of collective punishment. This concern over collective punishment is not simply theory, Israel regularly cuts off supplies, even medical goods, from the Gaza Strip during any flare-up with Hamas or other Palestinian armed factions. Last year, talks were underway of a potential gas pipeline project to Gaza, which would supply the besieged coastal enclave with gas from the Leviathan field that remains under Israeli occupation, although the project quickly disappeared as a prospect, for which Qatar was willing to foot the bill in order to aid Gaza. The same problem of Israel simply deciding to cut off the gas was still an issue even with this failed proposal.
The Palestinian Authority on the other hand, is an unelected authoritarian regime that actively collaborates with the Israeli occupation forces as their primary task. The PA is renowned for its corruption, which is why over 80% of Palestinians polled, as of last year, said that they felt its President, Mahmoud Abbas, should resign. The PA’s “economy” itself is also at the mercy of Tel Aviv, which regularly withholds the tax revenue of the PA in order to extract concessions and demands; translating to a form of blackmail and collective punishment. Although the PA may be able to inject some of the funds, available from gas sales, into the local West Bank economy, this does nothing to alleviate the hardships imposed daily on the Palestinian people by the occupation, not to mention the near constant land theft inside the territory. Simply, this is the equivalent of placing a bandaid on a dead body.
On June 15 of this year, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Egypt, the European Union (EU), and Israel, which will lead to Israel exporting natural gas to the EU through Egypt. Much of this gas will allegedly be stolen from Gaza Marine 1 and, if this is true, means that the EU would be actively participating in the clear looting of Palestinian resources – a flagrant violation of international law. According to sources who allegedly spoke to ‘the Cradle’, on the issue of theft of Palestinian resources by Israel, the PA’s silence was bought with a secret pledge from the EU to ensure the PA will attain 4% of future profits, a disgrace when compared to past deals that offered the Palestinian Authority 10-27.5% of the profits.
On September 13, a mural was inaugurated at the Gaza Port, reading “Our gas is our right“, which was followed by statements from Hamas government officials in Gaza that indicated that a campaign was on the way to protect Palestinian resource rights. If the PA does not properly consult with Hamas, or Tel Aviv uses this as yet another weapon against the besieged coastal enclave, then war could be on the horizon over this issue. It is somewhat telling that the EU (which is now experiencing what it is like to have a lack of energy resources) is not only backing Israel in its depravation of Palestinians of their right to their own gas, but are potentially becoming involved in the theft of those resources by Israel.
Orinoco Tribune 2https://orinocotribune.com/author/yullma/November 29, 2022
Orinoco Tribune 2https://orinocotribune.com/author/yullma/November 29, 2022
Orinoco Tribune 2https://orinocotribune.com/author/yullma/
Orinoco Tribune 2https://orinocotribune.com/author/yullma/November 25, 2022