Archive for the ‘Israeli gas fields’ category

The Resilience of Israel

December 29, 2016

The Resilience of Israel, Town HallVictor Davis Hanson, December 29, 2016


The Obama administration’s estrangement from Israel has had the odd effect of empowering Israel.


Israel would seem to be in a disastrous position, given the inevitable nuclear capabilities of Iran and the recent deterioration of its relationship with the United States, its former patron and continued financial benefactor.

Immediately upon entering office, President Obama hectored Israel on so-called settlements. Obama promised to put “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel — and delivered on that promise.

Last week, the U.S. declined to veto, and therefore allowed to pass, a United Nations resolution that, among other things, isolates Israel internationally and condemns the construction of housing in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Obama has long been at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Over objections from the Obama administration, Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress last year about the existential dangers of the Obama-brokered Iran deal and the likelihood of a new Middle East nuclear proliferation race.

Obama then doubled down on his irritation with Netanyahu through petty slights, such as making him wait during White House visits. In 2014, an official in the Obama administration anonymously said Netanyahu, a combat veteran, was a “coward” on Iran.

At a G-20 summit in Cannes, France, in 2011, Obama, in a hot-mic slip, trashed Netanyahu. He whined to French President Nicolas Sarkozy: “You’re tired of him? What about me? I have to deal with him every day.”

In contrast, Obama bragged about his “special” relationship with autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Never mind that Erdogan seems to want to reconstruct Turkey as a modern Islamist version of the Ottoman Empire, or that he is anti-democratic while Israel is a consensual society of laws.

The Middle East surrounding democratic Israel is a nightmare. Half a million have died amid the moonscape ruins of Syria. A once-stable Iraq was overrun by the Islamic State.

The Arab Spring, U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the coup of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to regain control of Egypt, and the bombing of Libya all have left North Africa in turmoil.

Iran has been empowered by the U.S.-brokered deal and will still become nuclear.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bombers blast civilians not far from Israel’s borders.

Democrats are considering Rep. Keith Ellison as the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee despite his past ties to the Nation of Islam and his history of anti-Israel remarks.

Yet in all this mess, somehow Israel is in its best geostrategic position in decades. How?

The answer is a combination of unintended consequences, deft diplomacy, political upheavals in Europe and the United States, and Israel’s own democratic traditions.

Huge natural gas and oil finds off Israel’s Mediterranean coast and in the Golan Heights have radically changed Israel’s energy and financial positions. Israel no longer needs to import costly fossil fuels and may soon be an exporter of gas and oil to needy customers in Europe and the Middle East. (America recently became the world’s greatest producer of carbon energy and also no longer is dependent on Middle Eastern oil imports, resulting in less political influence by Arab nations.) Israel is creating its own version of Silicon Valley at Beersheba, which is now a global hub of cybersecurity research.

The Obama administration’s estrangement from Israel has had the odd effect of empowering Israel.

Rich Persian Gulf states see Obama as hostile both to Israel and to themselves, while he appeases the common enemy of majority-Shiite Iran.

After a “leading from behind” U.S withdrawal from the Middle East, many Arab nations now see Israel more as a powerful ally against Iran than as an old existential enemy. They also see Israel as a country that has likewise been snubbed by America.

The idea of an Arab-Israeli understanding is surreal, but it is developing from shared fears of being targets of Iranian bombing and American indifference.

Many of Israel’s neighbors are threatened by either ISIS or al-Qaida nihilists. Those deadly dangers remind the world that democratic, free-market Israel is the sole safe port amid a rising Middle East tsunami.

Changing Western politics are empowering Israel as well.

More than 2 million migrants — for the most part, young males from the war-torn Middle East — have terrified Europe, especially after a series of radical Islamic terrorist killings. Suddenly, Europe is far more worried about Israel’s neighbors than about lecturing Israel itself.

Pushback against the Obama administration extends to its foreign policy. President-elect Donald Trump may be more pro-Israel than any recent U.S. president. And he may be the first U.S. leader to move the American embassy to Israel’s capital in West Jerusalem.For all the chaos and dangers abroad, the map of global energy, Western politics and Middle Eastern alliances has been radically redrawn.At the center is a far stronger Israel that has more opportunities than at any other time in its history. It will have an even brighter future after Obama has left office.

Putin’s offer to shield & develop Israel’s gas fields predated Russia’s military buildup in Syria

September 13, 2015

Putin’s offer to shield & develop Israel’s gas fields predated Russia’s military buildup in Syria, DEBKAfile, September 13, 2015

(Nice little gas field you have there. It would be a shame if something happened to it. — DM)



More than a fortnight ago, Russian President Vladimir put a proposition to Israel for Moscow to undertake responsibility for guarding Israel’s Mediterranean gas fields, along with the offer of a Russian investment of $7-10 billion for developing Leviathan, the largest well, and building a pipeline to Turkey for exporting the gas to Europe, DEBKAfile reports. The offer was made to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in confidential phone conversations and through quiet envoys.

At the time, Putin did not share with Netanyahu his plans for an imminent buildup of marines, air force units, warships and missiles in Syria, although the plan had been worked out in detail with Tehran in late July. The Russian ruler put it this way: Leviathan abuts on the fringes of Lebanon’s economic water zone and is therefore vulnerable to potential sabotage by Iran, Syria or Hizballah, whether by commando or rocket attack.

A multibillion Russian investment in the field would make it a Russian project which neither Syria nor Hizballah would dare attack, even though it belongs to Israel.

But now the situation has assumed a different face. Russian forces are streaming to Latakia, and Moscow has declared the area from Tartous, Syria up to Cyprus closed to shipping and air traffic from Sept. 15 to Oct. 7 in view of a “military exercise including test firings of guided missiles” from Russian warships.

When he offered a shield for Israeli gas fields in late August, The Russian ruler knew that implementation would rest with Russian military forces on the spot, rather than Iranian and Syrian reluctance to harm Russian interests.

Then, on Aug. 30, Netanyahu discussed the new Russian proposition with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi when they met in Florence, in the context of the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s involvement in Middle Eastern and European energy business and his close ties with Putin.

Berlusconi and Netanyahu are also good friends.

The Israeli prime minister never explicitly confirmed to Putin that he would consider the Russian transaction.

He hesitated because he sensed that a deal with Moscow for gas projects would be unacceptable to Washington and Noble Energy of Texas, which holds a 39.66 percent share in the consortium controlling Leviathan, as well as stakes in the smaller Tanin and Tamar gas wells.

Meanwhile, two Israeli ministers, Moshe Kahlon, finance, and Arye Deri, economy, consistently obstructed the final government go-ahead for gas production, tactics which also held Netanyahu back from his reply to Putin.

But when the fresh influx of Russian troops and hardware to Syria became known (first revealed by DEBKAfile on Sept.1), Netanyahu began to appreciate that, not only had Israel’s military and strategic situation with regard to Syria and the eastern Mediterranean been stood on its head, so too had foreign investment prospects for development projects in Israeli gas.

Israel’s strategic landscape had in fact changed radically in four respects:

1.  Its government can no longer accept as a working hypothesis (which never, incidentally, held up) the short term expectancy of the Assad regime. The injection of Russian military might, combined with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards forces, have given Assad a substantial lease of life.

The Israel Defense Forces must therefore revamp its posture on the Syrian front, and reassess its sponsorship of the select rebel groups which are holding the line in southern Syria against hostile Iranian or Hizballah cross-border attacks on northern Israel.

The changing attitude was suggested in views heard in the last couple of days from top Israeli security officials, who now say that leaving Assad in office might be the better option, after all.

2.  The new Russian ground, air and sea buildup taking shape in Syria provides a shield not just for the Assad regime but also Hizballah. This too calls for changes in Israel’s military posture.

3.  The Russian military presence in Syria seriously inhibits Israel’s flexibility for launching military action against Iranian or Hizballah targets when needed.

4. Three aspects of the new situation stand out prominently:

a)  The Russian air force and navy are the strongest foreign military force in the eastern Mediterranean. The US deplloys [sic] nothing comparable.

b)  Israel’s military strength is substantial but no one is looking for a military clash with the Russians, although this did occur four decades ago, when Israel was fighting for its life against Russian-backed Arab invasions.

c)  In view of the prevalence of the Russian military presence in the eastern Mediterranean, it is hard to see any foreign investor coming forward to sink billions of dollars in Israeli gas.

d)  Although Russia called Saturday, Sept. 12, for “military-to-military cooperation with the United States” to avert “unintended incidents” amid its naval “exercises” off the coast of Syria, the tone of the call was cynical. It is more than likely that Moscow may revert to the original Putin offer of a Russian defense shield for Israeli gas fields. But with such strong Russian cards in place in Syria, he may well stiffen his terms for this deal.

Israel Navy’s defense of Mediterranean gas fields hinges heavily on upgraded Barak and intelligence

September 2, 2015

Israel Navy’s defense of Mediterranean gas fields hinges heavily on upgraded Barak and intelligence, DEBKAfile, September 2, 2015

noble_energyIsraeli elite unit practices defense of gas field

The Israeli Navy Wednesday, Sept. 2, staged a defensive exercise, which centered on the elite Shayetet 13 unit silently and smoothly driving off the terrorists who had “captured the Yam Tethys Mediterranean gas field, off the coast of the southern Israeli port of Ashkelon. This demonstration and the weapons used exposed but a small part of the IDF’s scope and capabilities. The key, say our military experts, is intelligence – strategic and tactical – for early warning of enemy plans of attack and its actions in real time – whether by sabotage or long-range missile or drone.

Navy commander Brig. Ram Rotberg, leading a tour of military correspondents, outlined the potential threats addressed by the latest defense doctrines. They include the Russian Yakhont anti-ship missile which is in hands of Hizballah and the Syrian army, with a range of 300 km, a speed of 2 mach and the ability to cruise as low as ten meters, way under most radar systems, with a payload of 300 kg of explosives.

Another is the Iranian Ababil drone, believed to have been upgraded with navigation capabilities and the ability to carry tens of kilos of explosives. Iran is also ceaselessly developing new missiles and rockets, some of which are no doubt being supplied to the Lebanese Hizballah and the Palestinian Hamas.

The counter-measures and weapons unveiled in the Navy drill Wednesday were as follows:

1. The Barak 8 multi-purpose seaborne missile defense system (sea-to-sea, sea-to-air, sea-to-coast and sea-to-missile) has been upgraded to offer the gas rig the same sort of protection as Iron Dome provides on land. It is designed to intercept surface to sea missiles, ballistic missiles with GPS guidance systems and primitive rockets. It is 4.5 meters long, weighs 275 kg, has a speed of two mach, and effective range of around 100 km and carries a 75 kg payload of explosives.

Last year, a Barak 8 was reported to have intercepted a Russian Yakhont during a war game.

2.  A system of sensors installed on and below the sea’s surface to detect terrorists attempting to climb onto the gas rigs, and an active-passive obstacle field around the installation.

3. UAV’s and spy balloons will be on 24/7 patrol over the gas rigs.

4. Additional missile systems are available or in the works for supplementing the current defenses. They include Rafael’s Spyder surface-to-air missiles and David’s Sling.