Is the war in Gaza not about terrorism but control of energy? This idea was raised this week in the Guardian (other links in this article). A few years ago it was announced that a very large gas field had been found of the coast of Gaza/Israel (Leviathan @18 trillion cubic feet). When I read this my heart sank, but I’d almost forgotten about it until this week. Some other fields have also been found as far back as 2000. Part of the issue is that Israel does not show up under the gas heading as an individual country in the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, i.e. little if any of this gas has made it ashore (one field Tamar started producing gas last year). Maybe it will show up next year. British Gas have tried to reach an agreement to bring the gas ashore from the field found in 2000 first with the Palestinian authority but in 2001 with another uprising Israel put a stop to that. Then Hamas came to power… Its reckoned that in the Eastern end of the Med there is 122 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.6 billion barrels of oil. But these waters are disputed by Cyprus/Lebanon/Turkey/Palestinians/Israel etc.
Israel thinks its set-up with gas for a very long time (although this is disputed), but its certainly true that it has struggled with energy security for decades. It was hit by the 70’s energy crisis’s very hard and its Arab neighbours were obviously not going to sell it oil. Solar hot water collectors were made mandatory and despite being surrounded by hostile countries Israel built nuclear reactors (although this might have more to do with development of nuclear weapons). Electricity is expensive and solar PV is taking off.
Its difficult living in a peaceful country to put yourself in mindset of those living in either Gaza or Israel, but lets try. If you live in Gaza you have been squeezed into a small area (one of the highest populations densities in the world). Your economy has been severely damaged by the Israelis and the Egyptians and is very dependent on foreign aid for its present high rate of growth1. There is a maximum of 12 hours a day of electricity and a shortage of medicines at the best of times and you are ruled by Hamas which lives and breathes confrontation with Israel. Much of what you need is smuggled in through tunnels (along with missiles). Many Palestinians work in Israel2. If you live in Israel you are surrounded by former and current enemies (the former just about tolerate you). Every few years Hamas smuggles in enough rockets to launch attacks you on some pretext. (We should remember why this particular repeat episode kicked off. Hamas supporters brutally murdered three teenage boys. Israel did some very heavy handed police work looking for the suspects who have not to my knowledge been found, killing other people in the process. Some idiot(s)* in Israel (caught on CCTV) kidnapped a Palestinian teenager, burning him alive. Hamas decided to check their rocket inventory…)
Most rockets from Gaza fail to get through and you respond, there is eventually a truce brokered by Egypt but huge destruction in Gaza follows and many more mainly civilian deaths. A few years later the cycle repeats. Things look bad enough to the outside observer but throw into the fact that the entire eastern Med is floating on gas reserves of which may have peaked globally then you have a recipe for conflict for decades to come.
It seems to me that the current situation is getting neither party anywhere fast. Israel is not getting the security it deserves and the Palestinians have no life much less a state. Both sides need to get back to basics.
- At the moment its obvious neither side wants a permanent peace. This has to change. It was chilling on the TV to see the exiled head of Hamas smile when he said Israel was killing women and children. Hamas has to stop launching its weapons from civilian areas. We know they are doing it- we’ve seen it on the news. The UN said they had rockets in one of its compounds. On the other side Israel’s military policy is not working. I understand the reasoning behind it. Hamas will eventually develop a rocket you don’t just launch on the general direction of your enemy, but one that can be targeted. But riddle me this if the current strategy is so successful, why does the problem keep recurring? I cannot see the current strategy stopping Hamas gaining better missile technology anyway.
- There is no doubt that Israel is trying to if not destroy Gaza’s economy then its trying to stifle it. Again I can see the logic. If the economy of Gaza is doing well then the money rather than being spent on schools and hospitals will find its way to fund rocket development and pay the widows of suicide bombers, so the argument goes. But again the current policy is not working. We pay through our foreign aid budget for Gaza to be periodically rebuilt as a humanitarian gesture. Wealthy neighbours generally won’t fight. If the economy of Gaza was self supporting and prosperous its people would in all likelyhood lose interest in destroying Israel. Its worth a try anyway since the current policy plainly isn’t working.
- Perhaps in the words of a Jew who lived in Palestine 2000 years ago Israel should try turning the other cheek (Mathew 5v38-40). We are in a cycle of revenge that we saw in Ireland, but that situation shows although its not easy, it is possible to break it. Just say Israel had not responded this week with drones and F16’s but had done nothing except shoot down incoming missiles. Where would worldwide sympathy lie, with Hamas? Would Israel really look weak (we know they could do what they are doing). More Israeli citizens would be alive since only a few of the deaths are down to rockets (which would regrettably still have happened since no missile shield is infallible). Most Israeli deaths have happened since the IDF started fighting on the ground in Gaza.
As I wrote this a UN compound (school), 15 children were killed. Both sides are probably guilty of war crimes since they are launching ordnance in the general direction of civilians. But both Hamas and Israel will ultimately have learn to live with each other. This will involve compromise from both. Hamas recognising Israel’s right to exist and Israel allowing truly independent viable Palestinian state(s). I suppose the only good news for once is whilst all this is going on the fossil fuels will stay firmly in the ground.
* other words exist but I’m too polite and yes whilst not proven it was a revenge attack, its very naive to believe it was not.
1) see that well known liberal organisation, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gz.html for full details.