A Pipeline Against Peace

Israel's Recent Gas Deals May Exacerbate Tensions in the Middle East

An Israeli worker turns a valve to release drilled oil, near the Dead Sea, October 9, 2006. Eliana Aponte / Courtesy Reuters

In October 2014, Israel struck a $15 billion gas deal with Jordan—it would export 1.6 trillion cubic feet of gas for the next 15 years, starting in 2017, from one of its two newly discovered oil fields in the Mediterranean. This deal was the latest in a string of negotiations that Israel has made in the region. The previous one, in January 2013, was signed with a Palestinian company—a $1.2 billion contract for 168 billion cubic feet of gas over 20 years. Both of these agreements, shepherded by the U.S. State Department, will ostensibly renew economic, and potentially political, cooperation between Israel and Arab states—Egypt has also expressed interest in tapping the mammoth reserves. As a result, Israel’s gas is being called a “lifeline for peace” in the Middle East. But the energy negotiations, conducted behind closed doors and with little public support, may do little to bring actual peace.


Israel’s new gas fields—Tamar and Leviathan—were discovered by Houston-based Noble Energy in 2009 and 2010. The discoveries came at just the right time. Israel had almost depleted its domestic reservoirs, and in 2012, it lost its supply of cheap gas from Egypt—which had previously provided more than 40 percent of Israel’s domestic consumption—after the Muslim Brotherhood–led government turned off the taps. The energy trade between Israel and Egypt, long seen by Egyptians as extortive and politically unpalatable, had led to a wave of attacks on the pipeline where it originates in the Sinai village of El-Arish. Mohamed Morsi, president at the time, hoped that he could ease domestic opposition by simply shutting off the line.

Morsi’s decision signaled to Israel the need to reevaluate its energy policy—namely, boosting energy security and reducing its dependency on neighboring countries. The nine trillion cubic feet of gas from Tamar and the 17 trillion cubic feet from Leviathan enables the country to meet domestic demand until 2050 and become a major gas exporter in the region.

Jordan was also impacted by the bombings in

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