The confirmation last week of the largest underwater discovery of
natural gas in a decade off Israeli shores is stirring hopes that
Israel could become energy independent.
For decades, Israelis searched for energy in vain. The promised
land for oil and gas, most assumed, lay elsewhere in the Middle
But the confirmation last week of the largest underwater
discovery of natural gas in a decade off Israeli shores has made
many in the Jewish state dizzy with talk of becoming a global energy
power possessing reserves worth tens of billions of dollars.
Despite major export hurdles and the fact that the offshore
fields represent less than 1 percent of worldwide gas reserves, the
finds are being hailed as a crucial pillar for the local economy
with the potential to shift the geopolitical balance relative to oil-
rich Middle Eastern neighbors like Saudi Arabia.
Oil and gas discoveries produce potential Israel-Lebanon flash
"Israel has always been seen as a desert country that scratches
out a living first by agriculture and then by high tech, but never
an economic powerhouse, and always dependent on outside sources for
energy,'' says Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at
Bar Ilan University. "This changes those conditions significantly.''
Last Wednesday, the exploration venture between Houston-based
Noble Energy and Israel's Delek Energy Systems Ltd., announced that
its Leviathan underwater field contained some 18 trillion cubic feet
of gas. Less than two years ago, the partners found 8 trillion cubic
feet of gas in the near by oil field of Tamar.
Energy experts say the natural gas from Leviathan and Tamar is
enough to supply Israel's domestic market for decades, eliminating a
dependence on foreign energy sources. That's a sea change from the
1970s, when Israel was hemmed in by an economic boycott of Arab
countries and forced to rely on expensive and unpredictable oil
purchases on the international spot market.
Delek owner Yitzhak Tshuva quickly declared "a day of celebration
for all of us. The state of Israel is an energy independent
A global exporter of gas?
The finds are substantial enough that they have also fueled
speculation that there will be enough gas left over to export to
Mediterranean neighbors like Italy and Greece.
The Israeli financial daily Globes suggested that countries as
far away as South Korea and Japan might be interested in purchasing
the gas reserves, giving the Jewish state newfound economic and
political leverage. …