Foreign policy specialist David Wurmser tells Newsmax that huge natural gas fields recently discovered off the coast of Israel will make the Jewish state a net energy exporter and have “dramatic effects” on the Israeli economy.
But the gas finds could touch off new disputes with Lebanon — and in particular, Iran’s terrorist client there, Hezbollah — over exploitation of the gas fields.
Wurmser was a Middle East adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney and a special assistant to John Bolton at the State Department. He is also a former research fellow on the Middle East at the American Enterprise Institute.
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In an exclusive Newsmax interview, Wurmser was asked about the significance of the natural gas fields found in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel.
“A series of private operators discovered two gas fields in the last two years off the coast of Israel that are world class production zones,” he responds.
“The first was discovered in early 2009, called the Tamar field. The second was discovered at the end of 2010, called the Leviathan field.
“Together, they represent about 24.5 trillion cubic feet of gas. That’s about 750 billion cubic meters. Europe consumes about 400 billion cubic meters a year. So it’s equivalent to about one and a half years consumption of gas by Europe. These are very significant finds. And the basin in which they’re found shows promise of a lot more out there.”
A smaller gas field called Dalit also was found near Tamar.
“Israel consumes only a small part of what is out there already discovered,” Wurmser says.
“It would be about 75 years to 100 years of Israeli consumption. This is obviously far beyond what Israel would need to keep, so Israel would become for the first time in its existence a net exporter of energy resources, which will strategically begin to transform the way the nation looks at itself and develops relations with countries around it.”
Regarding possible disputes the gas finds could produce with Israel’s neighbors, Wurmser tells Newsmax the fields are “pretty clearly within Israeli waters. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some conflict or dispute that, say, Hezbollah in Lebanon presents.
“Hezbollah isn’t always run by lawyers so they would lay a claim whether there’s a real legal basis to it or not.”
Agreements with Cyprus and Egypt very likely will prevent any disputes with those countries over the gas find, Wurmser says.
“The bigger question is Lebanon, and every single norm of international law puts these fields way south of that possible line,” he adds.
“So there’s no real basis for conflict over these fields.
“That said, Hezbollah will use it because there are strategic implications for it. One is for Hezbollah itself. The second thing is that Hezbollah is an arm of Iran, which really doesn’t want to see the Eastern Mediterranean become a natural gas production zone that would make Europe’s ultimate reliance on Iranian gas less necessary.”
Israel has been importing about half of its gas and almost all of its coal and oil, so the natural gas finds “likely will have dramatic effects on Israeli economic growth, Wurmser says.
“Also, Israel could in many ways leverage this for strategic relationships with other countries like India, Japan, China, perhaps with Europe.
“And then Israel probably will develop a much broader energy policy that will seek to become a model for weaning modern industrialized countries off of oil, which could have major strategic effects for the United States and Europe.”
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