Israel consents to Palestinian gas field development

Gaza City  credit: Majdi Fathi/Reuters
Gaza City credit: Majdi Fathi/Reuters

Development of the Gaza Marine reservoir off the coast of the Gaza Strip will be subject to Israel's security and diplomatic needs being met.

As part of moves by Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority to develop the Palestinian economy and maintain stability in the region, Israel has decided to give approval to development of Gaza Marine natural gas field off the Gaza coast, the Prime Minister's Office has announced.

The project has to be coordinated with the security services and is subject to direct talks with Egypt in liaison with the Palestinian Authority and to the completion of inter-ministerial staff work led by the National Security Council on preserving Israel’s security and diplomatic interests.

The Gaza Marine reservoir, 36 kilometers from the coast of the Gaza Strip, was discovered in September 2000, and contains 30 BCM (billion cubic meters). Its status is unclear, and Israel has never officially relinquished it, but in that same year then prime minister Ehud Barak gave Palestinian Authority chairperson Yasser Arafat the right to drill in it and benefit from the revenue. If the Palestinians want to benefit from revenue from the reservoir now they will need an agreement settling its status.

In February 2021, the matter returned to the agenda when Egypt and the Palestinians signed a memorandum of understanding on development of the reservoir. Under the agreement, the Egyptian natural gas holding company and the Palestinian Authority will cooperate on development of the reservoir and transporting the gas to the Gaza Strip and to the liquefaction installations in Egypt.

Last year, the matter again became significant, when the Bennett-Lapid government received a request to proceed with development of the reservoir, but last July then minister of national infrastructure, energy and water Karine Elharrar decide to pass this hot potato on to the next government. At that time, it was reported that Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt were working towards development of the reservoir through the mediation of the US and the EU.

Last October, Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry declared that a framework agreement was already in place with all parties, including Israel, and that he expected progress shortly. The government in Israel has changed since then, however, and eight months have passed, and so far there is no agreement. If the move does eventually go ahead, the significance for the Palestinians is clear: potential revenue in the tens of billions of dollars and a huge boost for the Palestinian energy industry.

There is, however, the question of what Israel will receive in return. Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who strayed across the border, and the remains of Israeli soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, are still being held in the Gaza Strip. According to a report in "Asharq Al-Awsat", an Arabic international newspaper headquartered in London, Egypt is promoting a long-term truce between the two sides. The Gaza Marine gas reservoir will be an important element in such a truce.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on June 18, 2023.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.

Gaza City  credit: Majdi Fathi/Reuters
Gaza City credit: Majdi Fathi/Reuters
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