News and Commentary

TAKE A HIKE, ISRAEL HATERS: Exxon Considering Huge Investment In Israel Gas Fields, Report Says

In a move that tacitly acknowledges the enormous shift in the Middle East, as former enemies of Israel such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt have now allied with the Jewish state, Reuters reports that the Exxon Mobil Corp, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, is considering exploring for oil and gas in Israel.

The move makes good financial sense, as in recent years the huge Leviathan gas field was found in the waters offshore Israel as well as the “Tamar ” discovery offshore Israel in 2009; what makes it a harbinger of a new age is that Exxon would be the biggest major oil company to ally with Israel in such a way.

As Reuters notes, “The U.S. major and competitors such as Royal Dutch Shell and France’s Total have avoided investing in Israel, for fear of souring relationships with the governments of giant regional oil and gas producers such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. Those countries do not recognize Israel.”

Reuters reports that this week, Exxon executives met Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz in Houston to discuss the upcoming auction in June that Israel will hold for the right to look for oil off its shore. The sub-sea rocks are estimated to contain 75 trillion cubic feet of gas and 6.6 billion barrels of oil. In January, when the 322-foot high jacket to support the Leviathan oil platform’s deck arrived from Texas, Steinitz said, “The Leviathan gas field is the greatest natural treasure that has been discovered in Israel and the arrival of the platform foundation symbolizes our entry into the final stage of its development.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added, “Completion of the Leviathan gas platform and the pumping of gas from this field later in the year is a critical component of the strategic, energy, economic and diplomatic strength of the State of Israel. A gas pipeline will run from here and will link us to the gas economy of Europe. It will reach our Arab neighbors.”

A source told Reuters that Exxon recently invested $50,000 for a data package from the Israeli energy ministry in order to prepare.

Because of the recent discoveries of huge gas fields near Egypt, Israel and Cyprus, in January those countries joined with four entities to create the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum. The seven members are Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian Authority; according to The Jerusalem Post, the group agreed to a set of principles including “to respect the rights to natural resources of each other, adhere to international law, expand their cooperation toward formulating a common policy regarding the development of a regional market, and protect the environment.”

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported, “Greece, Israel, Italy and Cyprus are now set to sign an agreement to build the world’s longest and deepest undersea natural gas pipeline, EastMed, to transport Israeli and Cypriot natural gas to Europe. The project is backed by the European Union, and Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo is expected to push forward the $7-billion project that will help wean Europe off Russian natural gas during a visit to Israel later this month.”