Photo Credit: Courtesy: Noble Energy
Israel's offshore drilling sites and gas finds.

Consider it a form of ‘protection.’ Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has offered to invest in Israel’s natural gas development.

Diplomatic sources told the Middle East Newsline (MENL) on Wednesday, “Putin very much wants to make Russia into the major developer of energy fields in the Mediterranean, and the first target has been Israel.”

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A decision last month by Israel’s High Court of Justice nullified a “stability clause” that would have blocked regulatory changes to an offshore gas outline for the next 10 years.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had included the clause at the request of the consortium that developed the reserves, Texas-based Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Group, in return for their massive investments.

The decision, however, may have killed the deal signed with the consortium and potential customers as a result. Although the court gave the government a year to fix the clause, it did little to soothe the fears of bureaucracy-exhausted investors, nor to prevent new customers from bolting.

Moreover, there have been attempts by Lebanon to claim Israel’s northernmost natural gas fields. One of the reserves is located off the coast of Nahariya, south of Lebanon’s territorial waters, and is a field Lebanon had never laid claim to until Israel discovered the gas and oil therein.

Hezbollah representatives spent months referring in various speeches to the reserve. Lebanon even attempted to recruit help from the United States in 2014 in seizing the reserve from Israel.

Putin, however, has pledged Russian influence to block attacks by Iranian proxies against any Russian-operated field. Efforts by Hezbollah to stop Israel from developing its natural resources beneath the Mediterranean would likely be among the targets of Russian ire.

More than one of Israel’s natural gas fields are located near Lebanese maritime borders.

According to the diplomatic source, Putin envisions an investment between $7 billion to $10 billion to develop Israeli offshore gas fields.

Several weeks ago, Putin said he plans to meet with Netanyahu in the nearest future, noting that Russia and Israel have “many issues” to discuss.

Israeli media reported this week that Netanyahu plans to travel to Moscow later in the month, allegedly on April 21, to meet with Putin.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told media on Wednesday that such a visit is indeed under consideration. “We will make a relevant statement in a timely manner” Peskov said, according to TASS.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Russia with Vladimir Putin sees things as they are. Ideological or other more far-fetched considerations are absent. It’s about fresh cash and the Israeli prospects in deep waters seems to be temptations hard to resists. – Do negotiate with a Great Power, who’s also reasonable.

  2. BE CAREFUL — WHAT IS IT THAT RUSSIA REALY WANTS??
    DONT THINK FOR A MOMENT THAT PUTIN WANTS NOTHING MORE THAN JUST TO INVEST SOME CAPITAL
    HE IS A WOLF IN SHEEPS CLOTHING.
    AS FAR AS LEBANON IS CONCERNED DO THE SAME AS CHINA — INVADE THE AREA AND PRESENCE IS 99% OF THE LAW.AND CALL THEIR BLUFF.

    REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED IN THE FAUCKLANDS WAR?
    ARGENTINA CALLED THE BRITISH BLUFF HOWEVER IT ALL BACKFIRED

  3. Israel has repeatedly thrown roadblocks in front of offshore gas development, despite its strategic advantages to the isolated country. If the Israeli government is incapable of allowing Israelis to freely develop their resources, then why not let the Russians come help?

    Russia's ulterior motives are fairly obvious: they are trying to draw Israel into the Russian camp. Israel is already a top destination for Russian vacationers, and Israeli sales of military technology to Russia is in the billions of dollars. In wake of the Turkish downing of a Russian bomber, the Russians are reevaluating Turkey as a trading partner, and they recently named Israel as a substitute supplier of agricultural produce. Obviously, the Israelis would be pleased to take market share away from the Turks who also greatly damaged their relationship with Israel following the disastrous Gaza flotilla.

    It also can't have escaped Russia's notice that Obama these past 7 years has foolishly distanced the U.S. from Israel, has put space between the two erstwhile allies, and has stupidly empowered Israel's most dangerous enemy.

    Given the hundreds of thousands of Russian speakers in Israel, and in light of their excellent cooperation during the Russian air strikes in Syria, it's only logical that Putin would see them as a "little Russia" on the Mediterranean that can emerge as a long term ally in Russia's regional aspirations.

  4. For any eventuality Israel needs alternative sources of oil. With the assistance of Russia, strong caution in negotiations must cover environmental concerns to protect Israeli and Mediteranean beaches and potential clean-up costs. The scenario of the Chinese claim to their fabricated islands ( in this case sea bottom acreage ) needs not to be duplicated here for regional long term stability – it's in the better interests of Israel to move ahead with the project now ….before the offer is removed.

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