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Sunday, September 23, 2012
[Ehud Barak gift to Palestinians] PA, Israel discuss developing gas off Gaza coast

[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA:

It is only thanks to Ehud Barak that the Palestinians have the rights to the
gas in the first place.

"To begin with, it was not clear if there was such a thing as Palestinian
territorial waters, given the Authority's nonsovereign status. The 1993 Oslo
accords assigned the Palestinians a 20-by-20-mile swath of sea for limited
''fishing, recreation, and economic activity,'' but said nothing about
resources beneath the Mediterranean.

But by default, the Authority and BG reasoned, the area between Egypt's
eastern maritime boundary and Israel's self-identified exploration zone was
Palestinian. Though Israel could restrict shipping off Gaza for security
reasons, it never claimed economic rights there.

With the quiet assent of Prime Minister Barak, BG negotiated an agreement
with the Palestinians to spend up to $500 million of its money on natural
gas development off Gaza."

Gas Deposits Off Israel and Gaza Opening Vision of Joint Ventures
By WILLIAM A. ORME JR. The New York Times September 15, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/15/world/gas-deposits-off-israel-and-gaza-opening-vision-of-joint-ventures.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

In truth, Barak didn't actually realize the value and importance of these
mineral rights at the time he gave them as a gift to Arafat. Then again,
Mr. Barak didn't think that there was a need for Israel to have submarines
with particularly large launch tubes that, according to foreign reports, can
launch Jericho missiles with nuclear warheads - thus providing Israel with a
second strike capability. He also didn't think through the ramifications of
the retreat from Lebanon. And the list goes on.]

PA, Israel discuss developing gas off Gaza coast
Published today (updated) 23/09/2012 19:52
By Dan Williams
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=522659

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- The Palestinian Authority is negotiating with Israel
for permission to develop natural gas off the coast of the Gaza Strip,
Israeli and foreign diplomats said on Sunday.

Mediterranean gas could be a windfall for the PA, which operates under
Israeli occupation in the West Bank and has alarmed the World Bank by
sinking into fiscal crises amid shortfalls in international aid.

As envisaged in the exploratory gas talks initiated by peace envoy Tony
Blair, the PA would alone levy tariffs on any eventual revenues from private
pumping in Gazan waters, though breakaway Hamas Islamists govern the coastal
enclave.

Israel, which keeps Gaza under a close maritime blockade, said it had held
"initial negotiations" with the PA, and at its behest, about the Palestinian
gas.

"Development of the Gaza Marine gas field will generate revenues that could
contribute dramatically to Palestinian fiscal sustainability," the Israeli
Foreign Ministry said in a report, published on Sunday, to world powers
coordinating economic aid for the Palestinians.

PA officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Blair's spokeswoman Ruti Winterstein said he secured Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu's approval in February for the negotiations and they had
taken place over recent weeks.

"The (gas) field itself will take around three or four years to develop,"
she said, adding talks were at a preliminary stage.

Two private partners, Consolidated Contractors Company and BG Group, would
develop the gas field "and hand over the royalties and the taxes to the PA
under the supervision of Prime Minister Fayyad," Winterstein said.

Crying foul

Hamas, which won a Palestinian election in 2006 and sat in an uncomfortable
alliance with President Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah faction until they
fought a civil war a year later, cried foul at the gas plans.

"We do not recognize any agreement reached by the Palestinian Authority
regarding the gas fields off Gaza's shores, and the government in Gaza
should be consulted over any agreement of this kind," said Hamas spokesman
Sami Abu Zuhri.

Blair, a former British prime minister, represents the so-called Quartet of
Middle East peace brokers - the United States, European Union, Russia and
United Nations.

Israel has been vigorously developing its own Mediterranean gas fields in a
hope for energy independence partly spurred by political instability and
pipeline sabotage in neighboring Egypt, which once supplied 40 percent of
its gas.

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