Israel said ready to develop Gaza gas field together with Palestinians

Move could have dramatic influence on economy of Gaza, where 1.4 trillion cubic feet of gas lie beneath the sea

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The waters off the coast of Gaza. (photo credit: CC-BY-SA ProIsraeli, Flickr)
The waters off the coast of Gaza. (photo credit: CC-BY-SA ProIsraeli, Flickr)

Israel is reportedly ready to develop a natural gas field off the coast of Gaza together with the Palestinian Authority.

The Hebrew daily Maariv said on Sunday that a Israeli government report recommends opening contact with the Palestinians for the purpose of developing the Gaza Marine field that is estimated to hold 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

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According to the report, opening the gas field opposite Gaza will provide many benefits “that will dramatically contribute to Palestinian fiscal stability.”

It was not clear, however, what level of cooperation would take place with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Israel has no official ties with the Hamas government.

The Israeli report was to be submitted to European countries that finance Palestinian development as part of a review of Israel’s steps to support the Palestinian economy, Maariv said.

The Israeli readiness to partner the Palestinians reportedly followed a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and European Union special envoy Tony Blair. At the request of the Palestinians, Israel agreed to initiate contact with the Palestinian Authority to develop the field.

The Gaza Marine field was discovered by British Gas over a decade ago after then-prime minister Ehud Barak gave his approval to the Palestinians to allow exploratory drilling off the coast of Gaza without Israeli partnership.

The field has remained untouched since, amid claims that Israel was conditioning its development on progress in negotiations with the Palestinians.

Earlier this year Bloomberg reported that British Gas, exasperated at the stalled development of the field, intended to sell off its 90 percent stake in the project. Within the Israeli security establishment there are reportedly objections to developing the field, with concern that some of the financial benefits will be used by the Palestinians to fund terror activities against Israel.


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