Saturday, April 13, 2013

Israel joins gas producers

Natural gas has started pumping from Israel's offshore Tamar gas field to Israel's refineries and the international status of previously energy-poor Israel suddenly changed. The Tamar field has an estimated 10 trillion cubic feet of gas - sufficient to meet Israel's energy needs for decades and allowing surplus for export.

Israel's larger Leviathan field, as yet undeveloped, has an estimated 16 trillion cubic feet of gas. Lebanon, still technically at war with Israel, claims some of the Leviathan field is in its waters.

Other countries, including Russia, the largest gas supplier in Eastern Europe, are interested.

Weeks after he won the Israeli election, Prime Minister Banjamin Netanyahu managed to form a coalition government, retaining control over foreign affairs and national defence.

His problems are many. The nuclear threat from Iran continues, with no evidence of a serious effort to end it. Six or seven months ago, an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites seemed likely. The killing of Iranian nuclear scientists and sabotage attacks at nuclear sites, culminating in a reported major explosion at the giant underground Fordo plant in January, have bought time.

Israeli strategic affairs minister Yuval Steinitz called for world powers to set a deadline of weeks for military action to persuade Iran to halt its enrichment programme after talks with Iran ended without progress.

Continuing disintegration in Syria is a constant headache. Syria has large stocks of chemical weapons. There are constant fears that these could fall into the hands of people who would use them against Israel - and for international terrorism.

There have been continued rocket attacks from Gaza, riots on the West Bank that could lead to a third intifada, and some attacks from the Syrian side of the Golan. Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza remained armed with tens of thousands of rockets. The Israel-Egypt peace treaty is in the doldrums.

Some 3,000 years ago, King David appealed for people to "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psa 122:6). The exhortation is as needful as ever it was.