Beneath the Bombs: The Struggle for Palestinian Gas Reserves





Altaf Moti



The ongoing conflict in Gaza has left a trail of devastation with lives lost, homes destroyed and communities shattered. While the world focuses on the immediate impact of the war, there lies a deeper, less visible struggle—one that involves natural resources and geopolitical interests. Israel’s military aggression against Gaza is not merely about combating Hamas; it is intricately linked to a calculated effort to seize control of Palestinian gas reserves.

The Levant Gas Field: A Hidden Treasure

1. Geographical Significance:
The Levant gas field lies beneath the Mediterranean Sea, stretching across the eastern Mediterranean region. It encompasses not only the coastal waters of Israel and Gaza but also extends toward Syria, Lebanon and Cyprus.
This vast underwater reservoir holds immense potential due to its estimated 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. To put this in perspective, it’s equivalent to a colossal energy reserve waiting to be harnessed.

2. Strategic Importance:
The Levant gas field is strategically positioned, making it a focal point for regional energy security and economic interests. Countries in the region are eyeing this resource as a means to diversify their energy supplies, reduce dependence on external sources and boost their economies.

Gaza’s Untapped Wealth

1. Gaza Marine Natural Gas Field:
Located off the coast of Gaza, the Gaza Marine natural gas field is a subset of the larger Levant gas field. British Gas Exploration and Production (BGEP) confirmed its existence in 1999 after extensive exploration efforts. The estimated reserves within Gaza Marine amount to 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The Palestinian Authority granted BGEP a 25-year contract to develop and exploit this resource with the promise of significant economic benefits for the people of Gaza.

2. Broken Promises and Obstacles:
Despite the contract, the Palestinians have yet to reap the benefits of their natural gas wealth. Israel has consistently placed obstacles in the path of gas exploitation. The fear that gas revenues might finance terrorism against Israel has been used as a convenient excuse. Israeli governments, from Ehud Barak to Benjamin Netanyahu, have occasionally granted approval for gas exploitation only to retract it later. The cycle of granting and revoking approvals perpetuates the Palestinians’ inability to access their rightful share of the gas wealth.

3. Sovereignty Denied:
i. Land and Territorial Waters:
Israel’s actions in Gaza reflect a deliberate intent to deny Palestinians sovereignty over their land and territorial waters. By controlling access to natural resources, including the gas reserves off the coast, Israel effectively limits Palestinian autonomy and self-determination.
ii. Gaza Marine’s Gas Reserves:
The Gaza Marine natural gas field holds significant potential for economic development and prosperity. However, Israel’s policies prevent the Palestinians from fully exploiting this resource. The denial of access perpetuates a cycle of dependency on external aid and stifles the growth of a self-sustaining economy in Gaza.
iii. Economic Impact:
By restricting the exploitation of gas reserves, Israel ensures that Palestinians remain economically vulnerable. The lack of control over their natural resources hampers investment, job creation, and overall economic stability. Palestinians are caught in a Catch-22 situation: denied sovereignty and denied economic empowerment.
iv. Historical Lands and Displacement:
The calculated strategy employed by Israel aims to displace Palestinians from their historical lands. By controlling access to resources like natural gas, Israel weakens the Palestinian position and undermines their claims to the lands. This tactic not only denies economic prosperity but also erodes the cultural and historical ties that Palestinians have to their homeland.

The Meged Oil and Gas Field: A Contested Resource

Background and Discovery

The Meged oil field history dates back to the 1980s when it was initially discovered but deemed not commercially viable at the time. In 2004, Givot Olam Oil declared that they had made it commercially viable for drilling, transforming it into one of the largest onshore oil fields in Israel. The field began production in 2010 yielding both oil and some natural gas. Its proven oil reserves are approximately 1,525 million barrels.

Geological Context and Location

The Meged oil field lies close to the southern tip of the Palmyra rift system, a geological formation that extends across Syria to the northeast. It covers an extensive area of 200 square kilometers. Notably, the Meged oil field is situated along the West Bank apartheid wall, which separates the occupied Palestinian Territory from Israel.

Controversies and Ownership

1. Palestinian Land Ownership:
Around 80% of the Meged oil field is on land owned by Palestinian residents within the occupied West Bank. Despite this ownership, Israel has claimed and operated the field since 2004. The situation raises questions about sovereignty, resource rights, and the impact on local communities.

2. Oil Reservoir Extending to the West Bank:
Efraim Sneh, an Israeli politician, has suggested that although the drilling site is in Israel, the oil reservoir may extend into the West Bank near the village of Rantis. This assertion further complicates the issue as it implies that the resource straddles both Israeli and Palestinian territories.

Meged’s Role in the Larger Context

The Meged oil field is not just about energy extraction; it symbolizes broader geopolitical struggles. Israel’s approach to Meged mirrors its tactics in Gaza—denying Palestinians their rightful share of natural resources. The field has become another battleground, where sovereignty, economic interests, and historical claims intersect.

The Geopolitical Game: Israel’s Energy Ambitions

1. Beyond Military Dominance:
While military strength remains a priority for Israel, its ambitions extend beyond mere military dominance. The Eastern Mediterranean region with its strategic location and abundant natural resources presents an opportunity for Israel to assert influence on multiple fronts.

2. The Promise of an Energy Hub:
The Eastern Mediterranean is emerging as a significant energy hub. The Levant gas field which spans across the waters of Israel, Gaza, Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria holds immense potential. By controlling this gas field, Israel aims to secure its energy future and reduce dependence on external suppliers.

3. Regional Influence and Security:
Energy resources are not just about economic gain; they also translate into geopolitical power. By dominating the Levant gas field, Israel can assert its influence in the region. It strengthens Israel’s bargaining position and enhances its security by diversifying energy sources.

4. The Conflict in Gaza as a Smokescreen:
The ongoing conflict in Gaza serves as a convenient diversion. While the world’s attention is focused on the immediate violence, Israel’s actions in Gaza are part of a larger game. The conflict obscures the real agenda—the pursuit of energy resources and regional supremacy.

5. Strategic Calculations:
Israel’s approach is calculated: it denies Palestinians access to their gas reserves in Gaza while simultaneously positioning itself as a key player in the energy game. The Levant gas field becomes a pawn in this geopolitical chess match.

As the world watches the horrors unfold in Gaza, we must recognize the hidden agenda at play. The war is not solely about Hamas; it is about power, resources, and control. The Palestinian gas reserves remain tantalizingly out of reach, a symbol of both hope and despair. Until justice prevails, the struggle for sovereignty and natural wealth continues—a struggle that transcends borders and resonates with the very essence of human rights.


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