Friday, June 23, 2017

The EastMed Pipeline Could Be a Giant Step Towards Enhancing Regional Security

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 505, June 22, 2017, by George N. Tzogopoulos:

Boundaries of the Levant Basin, US Energy Information Administration

The EastMed pipeline, a proposed means of transporting gas from the eastern Mediterranean to new markets, would be expensive and difficult – but it is feasible. Easier and less expensive solutions are also being considered, but the security element works in EastMed’s favor. EastMed would allow Cyprus, Greece, and Israel to collaborate while developing their roles as hubs of stability in a turbulent neighborhood. The EU and the US would likely see improvement in Western energy dependence. And Israel would have the opportunity to improve its relationship with the EU, not only by participating in a project of European interest but also by finding new clients for its own gas in the European market.

The gas discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean are altering regional dynamics. Transporting that gas to new export destinations, principally in Europe, will be complicated but feasible.

With this challenge in mind, Cyprus, Greece, and Israel have intensified their contacts of late. Trilateral summits are regularly taking place with the participation of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek and Israeli Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Benjamin Netanyahu. (In April 2017, Italy joined the club, signing a declaration in Tel Aviv to that effect.)

The first trilateral summit took place in Nicosia in January 2016 and the second in December 2016 in Jerusalem. A third was held only a few days ago in Thessaloniki. At that most recent summit, the leaders agreed to deepen their energy collaboration by exploring means of constructing an underwater “EastMed” pipeline.

The project envisages a 1,300 km offshore pipeline and a 600 km onshore one from Eastern Mediterranean sources to Cyprus, from Cyprus to Crete, from Crete to mainland Greece (the Peloponnese), and from the Peloponnese to Western Greece. Then, the plan is to connect Western Greece to Italy east of Otranto via a 207 km offshore pipeline across the Ionian Sea, the so-called Poseidon.

At first glance, the biggest obstacle to the construction of the EastMed pipeline – which, if constructed, would be the longest and deepest subsea pipeline on earth – is its technical viability. Practical challenges abound. On the approach to Crete, for example, there is a stretch of about 10 km where the depth is quite high, which could cause construction problems. However, the companies involved are optimistic that technology will advance sufficiently to enable the pipeline to be built.

The Natural Gas Supplier Corporation (DEPA) of Greece describes the project as “technically feasible,” according to studies it has conducted. To bolster its case, DEPA notes the success of the Medgaz pipeline, which runs between Algeria and Spain. Israel energy minister Yuval Steinitz, too, has attempted to ease fears about construction issues and suggests that EastMed can be completed by 2025.

Technical feasibility is not the only matter of concern, however. Another challenge is the cost, which has been projected to range anywhere from $4 billion to $7 billion. Low gas prices are also concern, as they could prevent private companies from supporting the project alongside the EU (which is prepared to offer co-financing).

Alternatives scenarios are on the table to address these concerns. LNG bases in either Cyprus or Israel could work in theory, but the prohibitively high cost of constructing them makes them a nonstarter. On a practical level, there are two real options available.

The first is to construct a 550 km submarine pipeline beginning from the Leviathan reservoir in Israeli waters, passing through Cypriot waters, and reaching southern Turkey. Israeli gas would then be shipped from southern Turkey to Europe via existing, and perhaps some newly constructed, pipeline networks. This project is estimated to cost half or possibly even less than half what EastMed would cost. But in view of the lack of resolution on the Cyprus Question, Israel is hesitant to proceed to an agreement with Turkey on this matter.

The second option is to use already existing LNG facilities in Egypt. Gas from the eastern Mediterranean could theoretically be supplied to the two Egyptian facilities in Damietta and Idku, turning Egypt back into a gas exporter. But the recent discovery of the Zohr field represents an unknown factor. It cannot be anticipated how this field will influence Egypt’s energy priorities and the balance between domestic consumption and exports. Also, neither the construction of new pipelines nor the reversal of the existing one connecting Israel to Egyptian LNG facilities would be an easy process.

If the Cyprus Question is resolved soon, the Turkish option will gain ground. But the restarted talks between Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci are highly unlikely to lead to a breakthrough. In any case, Turkey will not be considered a reliable partner by Israel for as long as President Tayyip Erdoğan dominates the political sphere, despite the rapprochement achieved last summer. Israel also has reservations vis-à-vis Egypt: the growing Russian role in Egypt’s energy sector cannot be ignored.

Israel has always attached great significance to political and security parameters. If the EastMed project develops, it will certainly improve Israel’s relationship with the EU. Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete has said construction of this pipeline would contribute to the reduction of Europe’s dependency on Russian energy, a potential result also viewed with favor by the US.

The traditional division among EU member states on their view of Moscow can work in EastMed’s favor. While Germany is looking favorably towards Nord Stream II, which will complement Nord Stream I in the transporting of Russian gas to Europe under the Baltic Sea, the EU might well emphasize energy security and push (with the support of the US) for the realization of EastMed.

Israel is the driving force for energy development in the eastern Mediterranean, and its choices on this matter will have serious implications in terms of both strategic calculations and long-term economic planning. By cooperating with trustworthy democratic countries, Jerusalem will be able to mitigate the risk of instability, secure clients on the Continent, strengthen its relationship with the EU, and improve its image in Europe.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

General John Allen’s Plan Is Dangerous

From BESA Center Perspectives No. 504, June 21, 2017, by Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen:

Gen. John Allen in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 9, 2012. DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen

The Trump White House is currently reexamining the Allen Plan, an Obama-era proposal that calls for a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders with no IDF presence whatsoever. This plan is dangerous. If it is implemented, Israel will have to rely on foreign forces for its security, a situation that has not worked in the past. More than that, it is antithetical to the Israeli ethos of self-defense and self-preservation in the Jewish homeland.

...The plan envisages a Palestinian state with full sovereignty inside the 1967 borders, its capital in east Jerusalem, with minor modifications for settlement blocs. The plan is based on complete acceptance of the Palestinian demand for full sovereignty. This means no IDF soldiers anywhere in their state, which would extend from the Jordan River to the 1967 line.

In lieu of Israel’s demands regarding defensible borders, which include an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley to ensure the Palestinian state’s demilitarization, the plan proposes a varied and complex security solution. One element would be a US military force that would operate in the Jordan Valley. As the document’s Executive Summary states,
The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that well-thought-through security measures in the context of the two-state solution can provide Israelis and Palestinians with a degree of security equal or greater to that provided today by Israel’s deployment into the West Bank…
The basic problem is the notion that Israel will rely for its security on foreign forces. Not only is it difficult to ensure that such forces would fulfill their duty successfully, but it is uncertain whether or not they would stay in place – particularly after they have suffered casualties like those they have suffered in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade.

Recall that during the waiting period before the Six-Day War, the security guarantee given by President Eisenhower to Ben-Gurion after the 1956 Sinai Campaign evaporated. When he demanded that Israel withdraw unconditionally from the Sinai Peninsula, Eisenhower promised that if the Straits of Tiran were ever again closed to Israeli shipping, the US would intervene. Yet when Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban came to Washington in May 1967, President Johnson candidly explained to him that Eisenhower’s promise – however estimable – was no longer a practical proposition. With his army bogged down in Vietnam, Johnson apparently could not have gained the nation’s or Congress’s support for an intervention in the Straits of Tiran even if he had wanted to.

The main concern is that the existence of the Greater Tel Aviv area – indeed, the daily routine of the State of Israel – will come to be dependent on the goodwill of foreign forces. That is the heart of the matter. Do we want Israel to be no more than a haven for persecuted Jews where they can subsist under foreign protection? Or do we want Israel to be a place of freedom, a homeland, in which we alone are responsible for our own security and sovereignty?

The authors of the Allen document emphasize that Israel’s security would continue to be based on the IDF’s power. But it is hard to imagine under what circumstances Israel would attain the international legitimacy to pursue an offensive deep within the Palestinian state, should the need arise. Regarding the conditions that could justify an IDF operation in Palestinian territory, the document says:
The Palestinians will never agree to an Israeli right of re-entry, but there could be a side agreement between Israel and the United States on the conditions under which the United States would support unilateral Israeli action. Ultimately, Israel is a sovereign state that enjoys the right of self-defense. Thus, it can unilaterally violate the sovereignty of another state, but with the attendant risks that would have to be weighed by Israeli leadership.
Should the IDF evacuate the territories completely, as envisaged by this plan, the Palestinians would certainly employ their carefully honed tactical and strategic talent for nonaccountability and ambiguity. They would take care to ensure that the Palestinian state cannot be defined as a hostile entity against which a “just war” can be declared. Whether deliberately or not, they would be able to let “rogue,” non-state forces do their work for them, and avoid taking responsibility. What then?

There is also good reason to doubt whether conditions for demilitarization can be maintained.
In an era of global arms proliferation, and of forms of smuggling that elude surveillance (as in the flow of weapons to Hamas in Gaza and to Hezbollah in Lebanon), along with increasingly sophisticated local arms manufacture, there is no way to guarantee real demilitarization without a constant effort to keep the territory fully isolated and to operate within it.

We must also take into account the possibility that war could erupt in more than one arena at at a time. If war were to break out with the state of Palestine in the West Bank, it could happen simultaneously in Lebanon, Gaza, and so on. The IDF would be unable to concentrate its efforts in the West Bank arena – which, because of its geographic proximity to Israel’s population centers, could inflict a heavy blow. Under the new conditions of war, which are fundamentally different from those that prevailed in June 1967, reconquering the territory would be incomparably more difficult.

And what of the document’s validity under changing conditions? The security solution the document proposes must be weighed in terms of the time dimension, and in circumstantial contexts that are subject to change. If a solution is responsible and workable, what time span is envisaged? Who knows under what evolving circumstances the solution will be required to provide protection to a state of Israel that has been trimmed down to the coastal plain? Is there not also a need for responsible risk management regarding contingencies that are still beyond the horizon?

We must ask to what extent we ourselves, with the excessive emphasis we have placed on security concerns in recent decades as a key criterion by which to assess any prospective solution, have laid the groundwork for Gen. Allen’s plan. His security document is, after all, intended expressly to offer a technical solution to all the familiar security issues. It would leave the Israeli leadership without the faintest possibility of invoking a security pretext to ward off the “peace solution.”

In describing Kerry’s efforts, Thomas Friedman asserted (The New York Times, February 17, 2013) that in light of Gen. Allen’s solution for Israel’s security concerns, the Israeli government had reached a juncture where it would have to choose between peace and ideology.

Perhaps we have forgotten that protecting the national existence, in terms of how the IDF defines national security, does not pertain solely to ensuring the physical existence of the citizens of the country but also to safeguarding national interests. A national interest – such as the sovereignty of the people of Israel in their capital, Jerusalem – can go far beyond the technical contents of a plan for security arrangements, however worthy. Security is only a means, not an end in itself.

From a practical, professional standpoint, Gen. Allen’s plan leaves much to be desired. But on a deeper level, it completely ignores the possibility that the people of Israel, in renewing their life in their homeland, are motivated by something much greater than the need for a technical solution to security concerns.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Concessions encourages terrorism

Passover massacre in Netanya, image via IDF Blog

It is a widespread belief that Palestinian hopelessness feeds terrorism and the prospects for peace decrease it. 
This has always been false. 
In fact, the opposite is true: when Palestinians feel hopeless, Palestinian terrorism declines; when they are hopeful of gaining the upper hand, Palestinian terrorism increases. 
An Israeli iron fist is necessary to save both Israeli and Palestinian lives.

The common mantra that Palestinian hopelessness increases terrorism and that the prospects for peace decrease it has always been fake news. Palestinian terrorism invariably rises in tandem with their hopes of gaining the upper hand.

During the first intifada, Palestinians killed 91 Israelis over the course of slightly over five years. Palestinian terror shot up dramatically, however, as the Camp David peace process initiated at the end of 1991 morphed into direct negotiations with the PLO. The Oslo “peace” process was thus accompanied by a precipitous increase in Palestinian terrorism.

The more Israel made concessions to the Palestinians – 
  • the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA), 
  • the granting to PLO leadership and major Palestinian terrorists entrance into the West Bank and Gaza and even Israel 
– the higher the terrorist toll climbed. 

In 1992, when the Palestinians realized Israel was going to withdraw from Gaza to make way for some kind of Palestinian autonomy, the number of Israelis killed jumped from 11 the previous year to 34. After the signing of the Declaration of Principles and the establishment of the PA in the summer of 1994, that figure nearly doubled (61). When the PA was expanded in 1995 to include the major Arab towns in the West Bank, they killed 65 people, mostly as a result of three suicide bombings. The towns had become terrorist sanctuaries into which the IDF could not enter for fear of international condemnation.

The left-of-center Israeli government and leading left-wing intellectuals called the victims of these terrorist acts korbanot hashalom, or sacrifices killed on the altar of peace. Needless to say, many relatives of the victims, as well as other Israelis, found this appellation offensive.

Palestinian hopelessness set in after Netanyahu’s electoral victory in 1996. According to the mantra, terrorism should then have increased. The opposite took place. Terrorism declined dramatically: it more than halved to 32 deaths in 1997, dropped to 13 in 1998, and dropped further to four in 1999, Netanyahu’s third and final year in office at the time.

Part of the decline could be attributed to the PA’s efforts to come down on Hamas terrorists. This was done in the knowledge that further concessions by a right-wing government were only conceivable if Jewish blood-letting subsided.

Since the second intifada, the same trend has prevailed. Israel’s conquest of the Arab towns in the West Bank in 2002 brought about a radical reduction of terrorism, from a high of 452 deaths in 2002 to 13 in 2007. And once again, a renewal of peace talks in 2008 coincided with an increase in terrorism, this time to 36 deaths. In the year following the failure of the talks, that figure abated to 15.

Netanyahu’s return to office in 2012 coincided with a low of ten victims of Palestinian terror. Then, as if on cue, Secretary of State Kerry’s strenuous efforts to restart the peace talks led to a resurgence of terror – 19 deaths in 2014, not including the 72 deaths in the third Israeli-Hamas round of conflicts.

Why does hopelessness lead to less Palestinian terrorism and hopefulness to more? This is not as counter-intuitive as it sounds. The tendency to rebel increases not when all appears lost, but when prospects for the rebellious appear to be improving but the improvement does not meet rising expectations.

The same phenomenon occurred during the Iranian revolution and the so-called Arab Spring. The Iranian revolution occurred not after a period of hopelessness, but after a sharp rise in the income level of urban Iranians over at least a decade. Many of those urbanites – the very people who made the revolution a reality – lived to regret their role in the Shah’s downfall.

Similarly, in the Arab Spring, revolutions took place in the two Arab states – Tunisia and Egypt – that had shown the greatest improvement in the Middle East over the three previous decades on the human development index. This index is a composite of three indicators: gross domestic product per capita, educational attainment, and life expectancy. This time span coincided with the rule of Egypt’s Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zein Abidin Bin Ali. Once again, violence was not the product of a lack of improvement. There was plenty of improvement – so much so that expectations rose even more sharply than the human welfare curve.

...The moral is that there must be a significant majority on both sides ready to make necessary concessions well before any “peace” process is attempted. Until that time, it is hardly concessions that are needed but an Israeli iron fist to save Israeli and Palestinian lives.