Trouble in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea
A small country hemmed in on its land borders by adversaries, Israel has always relied on the Mediterranean to avoid commercial and political isolation. New developments at sea, including the discovery of natural gas deposits and the growth of illicit trade, will only increase the importance of maritime issues for the country. Israel needs a comprehensive maritime strategy.
Israel apologized, Turkey accepted, and the two countries have resolved a three-year dispute -- all because Turkey's leaders realized that they stood to benefit more from cooperating with Israel than from exploiting the dispute for domestic political gain.
Russia recently turned down a deal to save Cyprus’ banking sector. At first glance, the move looked like a huge strategic blunder. In fact, a credible offer was never on the table and Moscow needs no accord to secure its dominance on the island.
(Sam Pepple & Matt Baker / Sample Cartography) Click to enlarge.
In recent years, resource disputes in the South China Sea have made headlines across the world. But another body of water -- the Mediterranean -- is rapidly becoming as volatile as its eastern cousin. Exploratory drilling near the coasts of Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey has unearthed vast reserves of natural gas. Competition over the rights to tap those resources is compounding existing tensions over sovereignty and maritime borders. Without more active engagement by outside powers, these disagreements will be difficult to resolve.
Israel stands to be the main beneficiary of the eastern Mediterranean’s bounty, due mainly to the geographic distribution of recent discoveries. In 2009 and 2010, a pair of U.S.-Israeli consortiums exploring the seabed near Haifa discovered the Tamar and Leviathan fields, which collectively hold an estimated 26 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas. The timing of these discoveries was opportune. Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, Israel has suffered frequent supply interruptions and the eventual termination of its contract with Egypt, which had previously provided 40 percent of the gas Israel consumed, at below-market rates. The Tamar and Leviathan fields, once developed, could satisfy Israel’s electricity needs for the next 30 years and even allow it to become a net energy exporter...