The Turkish Government is set to welcome the Israeli President next month. Among other topics on the table, Ankara will try to persuade Isaac Herzog to lay gas pipelines in Turkey to transport gas to Europe as an alternative to seaborne gas supply via Greece.
Previously, the construction of the Arab gas pipeline –also known in Arab media as the “peace pipeline” or the “Egyptian gas pipeline”– had represented a significant political and economic development. Asharq al-Awsat had been the first to publish the early details of this project, which brings Israeli gas from the shores of Ashkelon to Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon through Egypt. Now, with Herzog’s anticipated Ankara visit next month, the project seems to be on its way to Istanbul.
Gas is a vital geopolitical weapon and is no less important in that capacity than it is for heating and cooking. In recent years, Washington opposed the gas deal that Germany and EU states struck with Russia. Now, with Putin amassing 100,000 soldiers on the border with Ukraine and threatening to invade the country, Europeans are crippled: they’re unable to stop the Russian invasion and they also must pay the bill, after European consumers were hit with a 193 percent hike in gas prices. Hence the US President’s attempts to paralyze the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Putin’s main weapon and the source of gas supply to over 200 million European citizens, nearly half of the EU’s residents.
Qatar is a key global supplier of the vital commodity, which is why, in the midst of this crisis, Washington has upgraded Doha’s status to “major non-NATO ally” in return for Qatari gas supply to Europe. A tremendous yet uncomfortable step for Doha, as it propels Qatar to the frontlines of the US-Russian cold war. After all, the export of gas is a strategic matter for Russia.
For its part, Israel has integrated gas into its geopolitical strategy. Tel Aviv was lucky enough to discover a surplus of gas, which helped take its economy from deficit to abundance, with nearly 40 percent of Israeli gas earmarked for export. Now, gas is a vital element of its foreign policy.
A lot has been said against Israel-supplied gas in the Jordanian parliament and in Syrian media, but the fact of the matter is that people in Jordan are using it for heating, and Syrians are using it for cooking. Meanwhile, the Lebanese impatiently await it as power cuts increasingly cripple the country. There is no other choice for states in the region but to cooperate despite all their differences in order to meet their citizens’ needs, putting aside their pride or one-upmanship tactics. The Gaza Power Generating Company imports gas from the Israel Electric Corporation and brings in fuel from the West Bank, which, in turn imports it from Israel. While political leaders refuse to reach understandings to ease their people’s suffering, the gas field that lies on the shores of Gaza remains intact, as it has been for the last twenty years, with no oil exploration or extraction agreements in sight. The same applies in Lebanon.
Turkey seems to have chosen the path of resuming “good” relations with Israel. In its endeavor to play an important role in the eyes of Europeans and minimize the damage done by its previous policies, Ankara is now seeking to use its turf as a passageway for Israeli gas.
At the same time, Turkey wants to breathe new life into its military and economic ties with Israel. Ankara has come to the realization that many contracts went to its Greek rival during the years of dispute with Tel Aviv, and a large share of the Israeli military and technical industrial licenses that formerly went to Turkey and others were given to the UAE.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.