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Saturday, January 5, 2013
Amir Rapaport: New Israeli gas rig within range of thousands of Grad rockets from Gaza

The "Gift" Hamas Received from Israel
A new gas rig being established these days near the coasts of Gaza, within
range of the Hamas rockets. Why? Because this is the result of the mix
between narrow national interests and broad economic ones

Amir Rapaport 4/1/2013

If Hamas operatives were to pick up binoculars this week and look towards
the sea, they would have thought to themselves that the Israelis have gone
mad. Before their very eyes, a tremendous monument was established – a gas
production rig, reaching a height of 290 meters and weighing 34,000 tons,
standing above the waves. Formally speaking, it is claimed that it is
located at a distance of "30 kilometers west of the Ashdod coast.” This,
however, is just semantics – from a defensive perspective, the rig is
located west of the Gaza coast, in a range easily covered by thousands of
Grad rockets.

The precision of these rockets isn't particularly high, but they are a
nearly unlimited resource in the Gaza Strip. One can already imagine how
Hamas and Islamic Jihad will target the rig in the next round of escalation
against Israel. It’s enough that one or two rockets hit the rig to inflict
tremendous damage. Even if no fire is aimed at the rig, Hamas has received a
gift in the form of another card to play, a threat to Israel in the event
that the IDF considers to attack the electricity facilities in the Gaza

The decision to locate the tremendous gas rig specifically to the west of
the Gaza coastal line is just one more example from among many on the way in
which narrow national interests combine with broad economic interests,
leading again and again to decisions that border on national stupidity. The
story begins, of course, in 2009, with the discovery of the large Tamar
national gas reserve. The discovery of the reserve (and the subsequent
discovery of the Leviathan reserve which is already intended for export), is
more than just economic miracle, but represents a strategic situation
change, no less.

The chairman of the Israeli Electric Company, Maj. Gen (Res.) Yiftah Ron
Tal, for example, says in an interview for the Israeli daily Ma'ariv that
“people still find it difficult to comprehend the significance of the energy
independence for Israel. The economy and energy are the name of the game in
the current era. The fact that we are becoming an independent country in the
field of energy is of positive strategic significance whose importance
cannot be exaggerated.” The problem is that from the moment the miracle took
place, countless interests have been involved in the matter, and it is
difficult to reach relevant decisions. While the issue of gas taxation was
covered extensively in economic newspapers, we shall focus here on the
question of the position of the gas reception station.

If the consideration were merely defensive or commercial, the station for
gas reception and liquefaction (a professional term describing the process
the gas undergoes to allow its transfer and usage) would be located as close
as possible to the Hedera power plant, and the are in which the gas were
present at sea – as far as possible from the range of Hamas and Hezbollah's
rockets. Accordingly, the initial plan of the companies partnered in the
enterprise and of the Israeli ministry of national infrastructure was to
found the station in one of the northern Sharon coasts, an idea praised by
the Israeli Navy.

However, then the green organizations, whose power was enhanced by a strong
population that resides near the coasts, entered into the picture, along
with Gilad Erdan, a dominant Israeli Minister of Environmental Protection
with far-reaching aspirations. The objections moved the station further
south. A gas pipe with a length of no less than 160 kilometers was stretched
in the sea, up to a distance of one kilometer from the point where the Yam
Tethys drilling site was located. Here the vast economic considerations
entered into the picture: facilities by the Trans-Israeli Pipeline company,
which has powerful ties (its chairman since 2012 is no less than former
Israeli minister Yossi Peled, for example) are also located near the coasts
of Ashkelon. The company’s facilities and plans became a rock that cannot be
turned due to the halted supply of gas from Egypt. Thus, a decision was made
to move the Tamar gas via Yam Tethys to the coasts of Ashkelon. So what if
Gaza is so close, as well as Egypt which might return to become an enemy in
the long-range.

It is more than just the Trans-Israeli Pipeline – many other companies might
also benefit from the decision. What of the IDF? Don’t think that the
Israeli Navy is only populated by naive personnel. The Navy and the general
staff identified the opportunity to renew vessels and equipment with funds
that will not be a part of the regular defense budget. That was how a plan
was consolidated at approximately $400 million to fund new vessels (at the
size of the older “Nirit” vessels), apparently acquired from South Korea.
Sensors, naval unmanned systems and countless defense and collection
measures will also be acquired.

The problem is that one day, against this entire arsenal, a lone dumb rocket
will be launched from the Gaza Strip. Yet all that matters is that the
environment is saved, and that the gas will begin flowing through the pipes
in February.

The US company Noble Energy, which led the construction of the rig, politely
refused to discuss the topic of the location of the gas rig, which was
received in Israel.

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