As gas begins to flow, Lapid tours Karish, hailing implications for Israel’s economy

After signing maritime border deal with Lebanon days before election, prime minister says natural gas will help lower cost of living for Israelis

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Prime Minister Yair Lapid tours the Karish natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, off Israel's northern coast, October 30, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid tours the Karish natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, off Israel's northern coast, October 30, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Days after Israel signed a maritime border agreement with Lebanon, Prime Minister Yair Lapid toured the Karish natural gas field to view the production process that kicked off last week.

During his visit to the gas rig off Israel’s northern coast on Sunday, Lapid proclaimed that the field contains Israel’s “energy and economic future.”

“Producing gas from the Karish field will lower energy costs in Israel, will turn Israel into a regional energy supplier, and will help Europe deal with the energy crisis,” Lapid continued, speaking from a gas rig.

High energy prices in Europe — the result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and underinvestment in reliable domestic sources — have caused political and economic stress as the continent heads into winter.

The prime minister added that the natural gas from Karish will help lower the cost of living in Israel, a salient political issue ahead of Tuesday’s election.

Lapid received a briefing at the site from Shaul Zemach, the Israel country manager for Energean, the London-listed company extracting gas from the Karish and Tanin fields. Energean began production at Karish on Wednesday, a day before the signing of the Lebanon-Israel deal in Naqoura.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid (L) tours the Karish natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, off Israel’s northern coast, October 30, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

With the beginning of production, Karish joins Tamar and Leviathan to become Israel’s third offshore field providing natural gas, with each connected to the mainland by separate infrastructure.

Before the recent maritime border agreement was reached between Israel and Lebanon, the terror group Hezbollah — which launched drones toward Karish in July — had threatened attacks if Israel proceeded with gas extraction in the disputed area.

The maritime border deal went into effect Thursday evening after a ceremony at a UN base near the border,

The deal was signed separately earlier Thursday by outgoing Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Beirut and Lapid in Jerusalem, and went into effect after the papers were delivered at the ceremony to US mediator Amos Hochstein, who added his own signature.

Energy Ministry Director General Lior Schillat delivers a statement at the border Rosh HaNikra crossing in northern Israel, known as Ras al-Naqura in Lebanon, following the signature of a maritime border deal between the two countries, on October 27, 2022. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The agreement paved the way for both sides to engage in lucrative offshore natural gas extraction after long years of disagreements over drilling rights.

US President Joe Biden drafted a letter to Lapid guaranteeing America’s commitment to the full implementation of the deal with Lebanon and to Israel’s security and economic rights contained in the agreement, a senior US official said on Saturday evening.

The text of the letter was finalized between Israel and the US on Friday and Biden is expected to sign it early this week, the official said.

In the letter, Biden stressed the US commitment to supporting Israel’s ability to defend itself, including its gas infrastructure and ships in the Mediterranean.

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