A new oil discovery in southern Israel might turn out to be the catalyst for an internal and self-destructive war in the Palestinian Authority, with Hamas in Gaza and chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah likely to claim ownership of a new Israeli offshore oil discovery near Ashdod.
When the Tamar and Leviathan gas and oil fields off the Haifa and Hadera coast, in northern Israel, were discovered, Lebanon and Hezbollah quickly claimed that energy reserves were in their territorial waters.
The oil and gas reserves are clearly within Israel’s territorial waters, but the fields could extend as far as the waters off the Lebanese coast.
Lebanon warned the American Noble Energy company not to approach its territory, and Hezbollah it would go to war over the oil and gas fields. Since then, Israel has brought gas into production, and Lebanon and Hezbollah have kept quiet, partly because the United States has mediated by proposing a boundary between Lebanon and Israel’s maritime economic zones.
Now comes the Israeli Shemen Oil and Gas Company which reported on Saturday indications of “high quality of oil” following offfshore drilling at its Yam-3 well, 10 miles from the southern port city of Ashdod, located only a few miles north of Gaza.
The drilling reached a depth of 19,000 feet undersea, but the possibility of commercial production awaits further tests.
“This is good news for Shemen but it is still too early to pop the champagne,” Noam Pincu, an analyst at Psagot Investment House Ltd. in Tel Aviv, told Bloomberg News. “We have to see the results of the production tests to estimate the quantities and quality of oil at the site.”
It still is not clear from the drilling report how thick the reservoir is and how much much oil could be commercially produced. Analysts said it could be only a few barrels a day or it could be several hundred a day, which would bring in millions of dollars.
If the Yam 3 well turns to be commercially viable, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu might be able to relax at U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace talks and let Fatah and Hamas knock each other out.
Hamas and its rival Fatah movement likely would be at each other’s throats, literally, to claim that Israel is “stealing” the reserves from them.
Abbas was head of all of the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria as well as Gaza until Hamas completed a bloody military coup six years ago. Abbas dissolved the Fatah-Hams coalition government and declared himself as ruler of Gaza by presidential decree, which Hamas correctly terms as “worthless.”
Abbas and Hamas de facto prime minister Ismail Haniyeh have since failed to carry out several declarations of unity.
All it will take is a few barrels of oil near Gaza’s waters for both leaders to draw their knives and guns for energy reserves that are so close to Gaza that Haniyeh and Abbas can claim that Israel is “stealing” them by drilling diagonally into Gaza waters.
Both Ramallah and Gaza City are in serious trouble financially. Egypt’s new war on terror in the Sinai has choked off the flow of commercial goods through the border at Rafiah, and Abbas is totally dependent on the economically ailing European Union, to stave off bankruptcy.