After a 23-year moratorium, on Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office announced it had ordered the development of the Gaza Marine natural gas field off the coast of the Gaza Strip. The revenues from the field will go to the coffers of the Palestinian Authority (Israel Green-Lights Gaza Offshore Gas Field).
A gesture of goodwill? Not according to the folks in the Hamas offices in Gaza, even though the Marine gas field is expected to bring in billions of dollars to the PA Arabs, help develop the PA economy and help maintain stability in the region, Hamas in the Gaza Strip is not happy.
The Gaza Marine natural gas field is located 22 miles offshore at a depth of 2,000 feet. The field was discovered in 2000 by BG Group, but until last Sunday its exploitation has been on hold.
The Israeli announcement states that “the implementation of the project is subject to coordination between the security services and direct talks with Egypt in coordination with the Ramallah Authority, and the completion of the ministerial work headed by the National Security Council, to preserve Israel’s security and political interests in this matter.”
Makor Rishon quoted Said Basharat, an expert on Israeli-PA issues, who said that despite the statement, Israel does not have a clear strategy regarding the implementation of the project off the coast of Gaza. “What’s happening now is a preliminary negotiation between the parties, and the one who benefits from it is Israel, by establishing that it has control over the region, with the consent of Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.”
According to Basharat, Hamas is not going to stand by and allow Israel and the PA to exploit what it considers its rightful property. Already there are voices in the Gaza Strip that condemn the PA for even negotiating with Israel on the field.
The plan is for the field to be operated jointly by Egypt and Israel, with the Palestinian Authority receiving part of the revenues. Israel would let the project move forward conditioned on a commitment that Hamas would not harm it.
The independent Lebanese newspaper Al Jadeed reported earlier this month, that a round of talks was held in Cairo between senior Egyptian officials and the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, on exploiting the gas field off the coast of Gaza. Hamas is demanding a share of the revenues before they are transferred to Ramallah.