Gas to make Israel stronger: Minister

Gas to make Israel stronger: Minister

Tel Aviv - Reuters
Gas to make Israel stronger: Minister

Israel’s Energy Minister Silvan Shalom speaks during an interview. Israel’s newfound natural gas reserves will boost its regional clout, he says. REUTERS photo

Once totally dependent on fuel imports, Israel has made the largest gas discoveries in the world over the past
decade off its Mediterranean coastline, and is expected to become an exporter by the end of the decade.

Israel’s newfound natural gas reserves will boost its regional clout and could help it improve ties with neighbouring states in need of new energy sources, Israeli Energy Minister Silvan Shalom said.

“Gas gives you much more power than you had. It is something that is very helpful in the geopolitical arena and helps to narrow the gaps,” Shalom, who also serves as Israel’s minister for regional development, told Reuters in an interview.

Gas to warm Israeli-Turkish relations

“It is a tool we can use in a sensitive and very clever way to enable us to develop relations ... and to have better relations with many other countries,” he added when asked if future gas trade could warm up chilly Israeli-Turkish ties.

Encouraged by the United States, the two countries announced in March they were working to improve relations that were thrown into the deep freeze when Israeli commandos boarded a Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara flotilla in 2010, killing nine Turks in the fracas.

The diplomatic detente has raised speculation that a pipeline could one day be built to carry Israeli gas across Turkey and on to eastern Europe, which depends heavily on Russia for gas supplies at present.

Shalom, a former foreign minister and veteran member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, declined to discuss the issue. But he revealed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had raised the question of Israel’s gas projects only last week.

“President Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu talked about it. It was a first discussion they have held, but it is not something we are dealing with these days,” he said, giving no further details.

The Tamar field, which came online in March with an estimated 10 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas, can meet Israel’s needs for decades. The nearby Leviathan field, which is expected to begin production in 2016, is estimated to hold 19 tcf.