"It is important for Israel to maintain its interests when drawing up and implementing its policy on the use of natural gas produced in the Mediterranean," Israeli Minister for Economic Affairs to the US Eli Groner told "Globes" at a symposium, "Power Shifts in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Emerging Strategic Relationship of Israel, Greece, and Cyprus", by the Hudson Institute in Washington.
"The Americans have an interest in their companies operating in the eastern Mediterranean basin and profiting from this activity, and we have an interest in encouraging this. We should create an investor-friendly environment. We need a satisfied Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL). We want everyone who invests in drilling to be satisfied. If there are no investors, there won't be any gas."
In a statement for the symposium, Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican-Florida) implied that US prefers the plan to export Israeli and Cypriot gas to Europe via Greece.
Following Sunday's decision by the High Court of Justice upholding the government's authority to decide on gas exports, Groner said that there was no disputing the fact that Israel's oil and gas reserves are the property of its people. He said that Israel worked hard to find the right formula for meeting its needs while attracting skilled companies to invest in wells, with the full knowledge of the risks involved in operating in the region.
Groner said that Israel has many scenarios for exporting gas to customers from Turkey to China, and that the supporters of each scenario have commercial, political, and diplomatic arguments in favor of it. "Whatever the scenario will be, Israel must guarantee that investors find target markets in Israel and overseas so that their investments will make a profit," he said, adding that each scenario must ensure that Israel's people will have enough gas to guarantee the country's energy independence.
"There are people who think that we spent too much time in taking the decision on gas, but these people should realize the size of the issue," said Groner. "It's possible to compare the situation to the US budget problem. We've seen in the past few week how difficult it is to draw up the budget in the US, or even make a continuous decision (adopting the budget for the coming year). On Israel's scale, revenues from gas are a third of the state budget. These are not decisions to taken hastily."
Groner said that Israel's commercial and diplomatic relations with Cyprus and Greece are becoming closer, and that the three countries are tightening their collaboration in the war against terrorism. He said that these relations have growing strategic importance. Although they should not come at the expense of Israel's relations with other countries, it is important that Israel foster its relations with Cyprus and Greece just as it fosters its relations with the US.
Asked about possible gas exports to China, Groner said that all options were on the table. "No one is forgetting China," he said. "Natural gas exports to China and Asia are one of the issues now under review in Jerusalem." He said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes in the importance of the railway to Eilat, and that it is an important growth engine for the Israeli economy, in part because a railway could boost exports to Asia via the Eilat Port.
Ros-Lehtinen said in her statement that the discovery of natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean could completely change the region's economic, political, and security balance and greatly affect the US's national security. She added that the large offshore gas discoveries in Israel could greatly strengthen US-Israeli relations, and help Israel's economy and security. She noted that as the region was on the threshold of a historic geopolitical change, the US and its allies placed increasing importance on the eastern Mediterranean, and that the changing regional circumstances required the US to change its geopolitical priorities.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 24, 2013
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