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יום רביעי 20.11.2019
ישראל מסייעת לרוסיה להבטיח את שליטתה באספקת גז לאירופה ומניעת תחרות בה.
22/09/2014 06:01

ישראל מצויידת ומצטיידת במיטב האמצעים להגנת מאגרי הגז שלה,ועומדת לצאת במכרז בינלאומי לאמצעים נוספים לאחר שגרמניה מקפיאה את הציוד שישראל ביקשה. פרופסור אפרים ענבר,(בתמונה)ראש מרכז בגין-סאדעת לשלום,מנתח את המצב במלחמות השליטה על תגליות הגז באזורנו ומתווה דרכים לשמירת האינטרסים הישראליים.

 

Wars over Gas Fields

The discovery of gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean could potentially

escalate tensions in this increasingly volatile region. Competing claims

to the lucrative natural gas fields, made by Israel’s former ally, Turkey,

as well as by its neighbor Lebanon (still in a de jure state of war), have

precipitated a build-up of naval forces in the Levant basin from a number

of state actors wanting to get in on the action, including Russia. All this

has occurred in the wake of the drawdown of American naval assets in

the area, creating a power vacuum.

Meanwhile, Israel’s wells, and the naval presence protecting them, offer

new targets at sea to Israel’s longstanding non-state enemies Hizballah

and Hamas, whose modus operandi in the case of legal disputes is the use

of force rather than through the court system.

Hizballah and Hamas could seek to disrupt Israel’s off-shore venture by

targeting Israeli rigs and naval patrols. Hizballah is already in possession

of Chinese C-802 anti-ship missiles and is believed to have been given

Russian Yakhont missiles by Syria. Iran could provide similar missiles to

Hamas in Gaza. Hizballah’s waning support in Lebanon, due to a blowback

from its role in Syria, could push the organization to reclaim the popular

role as the only resistance force capable of defending Lebanon from Israeli

aggression. Fighting for Lebanese rights in the Eastern Mediterranean

could provide the pretext needed for Hizballah to reestablish its credibility

and raison d’être in the eyes of the Lebanese masses. Similarly, Hamas,

vying with the Palestinian Authority for legitimacy in the Palestinian street,

could buttress its claim to be the true resistance to Israel by attacking Israeli

targets at sea. In August 2014, it announced two rocket attacks on an Israeli

offshore gas installation. Other radical organizations in Gaza and in Sinai,

some of them Iranian proxies, could do the same.

MIDEAST SECURITY AND POLICY STUDIES I 27

With a growing amount of increasingly sophisticated and lethal weaponry

proliferating throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and plenty of radical

motivations, a conflagration, triggered intentionally or by a tragic

miscalculation, seems plausible. As noted, the Turkish energy appetite

and growing assertiveness could also fuel military conflict.

Israeli defense circles hope that Israel’s expanding navy, combined with

its continuous improvement of land and air assets, and the increasing

cooperation with Greece and Cyprus, will give pause to any regional

actor that would consider turning the Mediterranean Sea into the next

great field of battle. Indeed, the Israeli navy is preparing to defend the

gas field offshore of Israel.62 The IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny

Gantz has approved the navy’s plan to add, inter alia, four Offshore

Patrol Vessels (OPVs) to its order of battle.63 Recently Israel has

sought to increase the capabilities of its fast patrol vessels, the Shaldag

and Super Dvora Mark III, of which another three larger variants are

already on order from Israeli Aircraft Industries. In addition to these

smaller purchases, Israel has been upgrading its Saar 4.5 missile boats

and Saar 5 corvettes with new radars, electronic warfare systems,

and anti-aircraft and anti-missile missiles. These surface assets are

complemented by three submarines, which will be joined by two new

Dolphin-class submarines, the most advanced in the Mediterranean,

with a third in production. Finally, Israel hoped to procure four OPVs

from Germany. However, as this purchase is unlikely to be pursued, an

international bid for the OPVs is considered.64

The future role of Russia in these contingencies is not clear. Some

analysts believe that Russia is interested in marketing the region’s

energy riches. Securing gas reserves in the East Mediterranean

will also help Moscow safeguard its dominant position as a natural

gas supplier to Western Europe, which could be challenged by new

competitors in the region. Yet, delays and disruptions in transporting

the gas to Europe might strengthen Russia’s role even more as a major

energy supplier to Europe and keep prices high, which is beneficial for

Moscow. Moreover, as the Crimea crisis indicated, geopolitics still are

a dominant factor in Russian decision-making.

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