Gaza: a war for oil?
Well, we don't think so either, actually. But Revolution News brings some interesting facts to light in a piece entitled "Bombing for Oil: Gaza, Israel and the Levant Basin." It seems that in 1999, British Gas Group (BG) and Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) signed a 25-year agreement with the Palestinian Authority for offshore rights on the Gaza coast. In 2000, as drilling began, BG and CCC found gas (not oil) fields, dubbed Gaza Marine 1 and Gaza Marine 2. The companies were granted a 90% ownership of any reserves (60% and 30% respectively for BG and CCC), with a 10% share for the Palestinians. Gaza Marine 1 is entirely located in "Palestinian territorial waters," with reserves estimated at 28 billion cubic meters. Gaza Marine 2, or the "Gaza Border Field" straddles the maritime border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, with an estimated 3 billion cubic meters.
"When gas reserves were discovered in 2000, late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat held a special ceremony for the occasion, which gave Palestinians hope that their homeland would thrive and join other Gulf countries as a major gas exporter. Yet Palestine over the past 14 years has been unable to properly exploit its own gas due to the political and economic impediments with Israel, and due to internal division and the absence of legislative control." Israel has been the sole purchaser of the 10% allocated Palestinian gas, with a ground pipeline from the Strip foreseen. But it is uncertain the pipeline has ever functioned, or even been built: "Negotiations over gas deals beginning in 2001 broke down in 2007 due to differences on where the pipeline would come on shore, the complications of increasing violent events, and the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. These all contributed to circumstances whereby, in 2007, BG Group withdrew from negotiations with the government of Israel for the sale of gas from the Gaza Marine field and in 2008, BG Group closed its office in Israel, yet remained in contact with both the PA and Israel."
The report also states (inaccurately): "Operation Cast Lead began in June 2008, at the exact same time that Israel contacted BG to discuss critical negotiations around Gaza's natural gas." (Of course Operation Cast Lead began in December 2008, not June.) Israel has made its own discoveries in the intervening years, such as the Leviathan field estimated to hold 18 trillion cubic feet of gas—but it is in waters disputed by Lebanon, which has thus far blocked development.
Anais Antreasyan wrote in Journal of Palestine Studies (PDF) that Israel's military encirclement of Gaza has been designed to make "Palestinian access to the Marine-1 and Marine-2 gas wells impossible." Israel's long-term goal "besides preventing the Palestinians from exploiting their own resources, is to integrate the gas fields off Gaza into the adjacent Israeli offshore installations."
But Revolution News writes: "Palestine moving closer to becoming a sovereign state in the eyes of the United Nations, complicates this situation for Israel's interest in the region even further. The current government was sworn in by the President of the State of Palestine, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, on 2 June 2014. It was recognized by the United Nations on the 4th of June..."
Offshore Technology provides this brief overview:
Gaza Marine gas field is located 30km off the coast of the Gaza Strip, in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It lies at a water depth of 603m. The development of the Gaza field has been on hold for several years due to disputes between Israel and the Palestinians. Backed by the US, the Palestinian National Authority commenced discussions with Israel in September 2012 over the possible development of the field. The start date of development is still unclear as the discussions are in early stages... The major hurdle for the development of the Gaza field has been the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians over Palestinian territorial waters. Under international law, the area containing the gas field belongs to the Palestinians.
If Israel has ever recognized any such thing as "Palestinian territorial waters," that recognition of course goes to the Palestinian Authority—and Israel has refused to recognize the recent Hamas-Fatah deal that brought Gaza under the nominal rule of the PA. Meanwhile, repeated militant attacks on the Sinai pipeline certainly increase the pressure on Israel to develop alternative sources of natural gas. We've noted Israel's recent gas deals with Cyprus, but the Gaza offshore fields would be closer to home, and (worst case scenario) Israeli hardliners may contemplate actually annexing the Strip in order to secure them.
An annexationist agenda was voiced by the inimitable far-right MK Moshe Feiglin in Arutz Sheva. His piece, tellingly entitled "My Outline for a Solution in Gaza," repeatedly refers to the "enemy population" of the Strip—not enemy combatants or enemy forces, but "enemy population," a concept with no valid juridical meaning whatsoever. Calling for a full-scale Israeli invasion of the Strip, he writes:
The enemy population that is innocent of wrong-doing and separated itself from the armed terrorists will be treated in accordance with international law and will be allowed to leave. Israel will generously aid those who wish to leave.
Right, as if forcing a civilian population from their homes—"ethnic cleansing," as the Serbs so quaintly put it in Bosnia—can be "in accordance with international law." Feiglin concludes:
Gaza is part of our Land and we will remain there forever. Liberation of parts of our land forever is the only thing that justifies endangering our soldiers in battle to capture land. Subsequent to the elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel. The coastal train line will be extended, as soon as possible, to reach the entire length of Gaza.
Alas, not very different noises are being emitted by mainstream organs of the US media. Thane Rosenbaum writes in the Wall Street Journal, in a piece entitled (with seemingly unintentional irony) "Hamas's Civilian Death Strategy," that:
To qualify as a civilian one has to do more than simply look the part... The people of Gaza overwhelmingly elected Hamas, a terrorist outfit dedicated to the destruction of Israel, as their designated representatives... What did Gazans think was going to happen? Surely they must have understood on election night that their lives would now be suspended in a state of utter chaos... To make matters worse, Gazans sheltered terrorists and their weapons in their homes, right beside ottoman sofas and dirty diapers. When Israel warned them of impending attacks, the inhabitants defiantly refused to leave.
On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations. At that point you begin to look a lot more like conscripted soldiers than innocent civilians. And you have wittingly made yourself targets.
Rosenbaum's lead sentence is: "Let's state the obvious: No one likes to see dead children." As WaPo blogger James Downie rightly observes in calling out Rosenbaum's rhetorical monstrosity, when your op-ed thusly opens, "you should step away from the keyboard, take a look in the closest mirror and think long and hard about exactly the argument you’re about to make."
As we've noted before, the denial demonstrated by growing numbers of Israelis about the need to relinquish control of lands they have no right to rule smells more and more like that demonstrated by Indonesia and Serbia in their blood-drenched but futile efforts to hold on to East Timor and Kosova. We must warn again that Israel is approaching a genocidal threshold.