The deadly Hamas attack on October 7 resulted in the freezing of the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the only one capable of allowing the establishment of an economic corridor linking the region to Europe via the Israeli ports of Ashkelon and Haifa. A necessary path to no longer depend on Russian fossil fuels. For this, the Palestinian enclave must be under control.
The scene takes place during the G20 summit which was held in New Delhi, India, on September 9 and 10. With a smile on their lips, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announce the launch of a new project that the President of the United States, Joe Biden, hails as “a really big deal” (a very big deal).
This project, called the “Global Infrastructure Investment Partnership”, could, according to its designers, accelerate trade between India and Europe by 40% and help normalize relations between Israel and the Gulf States. , which is one of the essential conditions for its achievement. It is also a competing project with that of the new Silk Roads (Belt and Road Initiative) that China wants to establish. Beijing is trying to connect East Asia and the Middle East to the Mediterranean Sea through Iranian and Iraqi lands and to Syrian ports.
“A game-changing investment”
The deadly Hamas attack on October 7, whatever the purpose and motives, put a stop to this planned partnership. The ongoing normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, by far the most important, is at a standstill and the question of Palestine, relegated in recent years to the backstage of history, finds itself center stage, to the great dismay of Benyamin Netanyahu, who is totally invested in the project.
Therefore, the initiative publicly announced at the G20 summit sheds new light on the current sequence, the Israeli unleashing against the Gaza Strip and the astonishing support of European countries for this relentlessness, silence or timid action Arab countries.
The plan, with unprecedented geopolitical and geo-economic benefits, supported by the United States and the European Union (EU), aims to build an economic corridor linking India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE ), Jordan, Israel and the EU through seaports and rail routes, with the aim of making trade faster and cheaper and, as officially stated, boosting economic cooperation and digital connectivity In the region.
For Modi, this India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor promises to be “a beacon of cooperation, innovation and common progress”, Biden considers it “a game-changing investment” and von der Leyen describes it as “much more than a simple railway or a cable, it is a green and digital bridge between continents and civilizations”.
Jake Sullivan, the US security adviser, remarked allusively: “We think the project itself is bold and transformative, but the vision behind it is just as bold and transformative, and we will also see it in other parts of the world. » Clearly, this is not just an economic agreement, but a change in global relations that did not come out of a hat.
The same Sullivan revealed that discussions for the project began in July 2022, during Joe Biden’s visit to Riyadh, and that another meeting between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and India took place earlier this year to formalize an agreement. Israel, which does not have diplomatic relations with Riyadh, also participated in the project, as did Jordan.
Eilat, starting point for a new gas pipeline to Europe?
In June 2022, Ursula von der Leyen visited Ukraine, Israel and then Egypt. A journey that could be described as energetic and above all energetic. A trip during which she met, in Cairo, the Egyptian Minister of Oil, Tarek El Moulla, and the Israeli Minister of Energy, Karine Elharrar. The outcome is a tripartite agreement on liquefied gas and infrastructure development to make Egypt a regional gas hub.
“We agreed to work together to transport natural gas from Israel via Egypt, then to the EU,” the President of the European Commission underlined at the time. The stated goal is to free ourselves from Russian fossil fuels. Israeli gas is liquefied in Egypt. How is it transported? Through a little-talked about gas pipeline, the result of an agreement between Cairo and Tel Aviv concluded in 2005. At the time, Egypt exported its gas to Israel.
A gas “pumped via a hundred-kilometer underwater pipeline connecting the Egyptian Mediterranean port of El-Arish to the Israeli city of Ashkelon”, as indicated by the Keys to the Middle East website. A gas pipeline that runs off the coast of the Gaza Strip. “The gas is sold to the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG), a consortium of the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation, the Israeli Merhav group and the Egyptian businessman Hussein Salem. »
A little publicized agreement which will be criticized in vain, particularly after the intervention of the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip in… 2009. Closed temporarily in 2012, this pipeline was put back into service in 2020 but, this time, it is Israeli gas going to Egypt.
During her meetings in June 2022, the President of the European Commission also mentioned a project, that of the construction of a gas pipeline connecting Israeli waters to Europe. This is the EastMed gas pipeline, which the European Commission has deemed a priority within the framework of projects of common interest (PIC) in the field of energy but which would not be put into service before 2028. It would connect the gas
fields Israelis and Cypriots to Greece and then to Italy, crossing the disputed waters between Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. The interest presented by the Israeli port of Eilat, located on the Gulf of Aqaba of the Red Sea, is thus briefly mentioned. Which would make it a strategic point for energy exports from the Gulf countries to Europe.
An Israeli-Emirati consortium to build a pipeline between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean
On September 22, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the United Nations General Assembly. After saying he was “convinced that we should not give the Palestinians a right of veto over new peace treaties likely to be concluded between Israel and the Arab states”, the head of the far-right Israeli government publicly rejoiced . “At the G20 conference, President Biden, Prime Minister Modi and European and Arab leaders announced a visionary corridor project that will stretch from the Arab Peninsula to Israel. »
Brandishing a map called the “new Middle East”, he then drew a line with a red marker starting from Asia, passing through Israel and ending in Europe. “We will not only remove the barriers between Israel and our neighbors,” he cried. Together we will build a new corridor of peace and prosperity, which will connect Asia to Europe through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel. It’s an extraordinary change, it’s a monumental change, it’s another turning point in history. » Of the State of Palestine, there is obviously no question of it.
It is therefore a carefully considered puzzle which is being put into place and whose existence is totally conditioned by the Abraham Accords, that is to say the normalization of relations between Israel and a certain number of Arab countries. For the moment, these agreements concern Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE.
This is how a memorandum of understanding was signed in October 2020 between the Israeli public company EAPC (Europe Asia Pipeline Company) and the Israeli-Emirati company Med-Red for the transport of oil via an oil pipeline connecting the Red Sea (via the Israeli port of Eilat) to the Mediterranean, at the Israeli port of Ashkelon, about twenty kilometers from the Gaza Strip.
Most of it currently passes through the Suez Canal through maritime tankers. This project will reduce costs and facilitate the transport of larger quantities meeting the growing needs of the European market after its supply of Russian oil and gas was interrupted following the war in Ukraine.
The United Arab Emirates has signed an agreement to build a maritime pipeline linking Israel to Cyprus, Greece and Europe, making Israel a key corridor controlling oil exports from the Gulf to the Old Continent. Which would result in a reduction of Suez Canal revenues by 17%.
To which must be added the project to duplicate the already existing trans-Israeli oil pipeline, crossing Israel for 254 km from Eilat to Ashkelon, which could mean the closure of the Egyptian Sumed oil pipeline (which transports Gulf oil from the port of Ain Sukhna, in the Red Sea, to the port of Sidi Kerir in the Mediterranean).
A secret deal between Israel and the Palestinian authority
This new road would include the drilling of a new canal, called the Ben-Gurion canal. The idea is not new, it dates from the 1960s. But it was revived by Israel at the time of the Abraham Accords. At the origin, we find the US desire not to depend on Egypt, considered too close to Russia, while, according to the US Naval Institute, 12% of world trade passes through the Suez Canal.
In April 2021, Tel Aviv even announced the start of work for June of the same year. A way of rooting the route, particularly in the mind of the American ally. According to the Armstrongeconomics website, part of this canal “would pass precisely through the Gaza Strip. The passage would begin from the port city of Eilat in Israel across the Gulf of Aqaba, via the Jordanian border and the Arabah Valley before entering the Dead Sea and heading north around the Strip of Gaza.”
This canal, unlike that of Suez, would be doubled and could therefore accommodate ships in both directions. It would also be wider and deeper. And it would provide Israel with a strategic option, because the Ben-Gurion Canal will diminish the importance of Suez to the US military. A development which Egypt will find all the more difficult to oppose (the revenues from the Suez Canal, between 6 and 9 billion dollars per year for the Egyptian treasury, will be considerably reduced) as it has renounced its sovereignty over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir for the benefit of Saudi Arabia.
However, these two islands control the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba and therefore access to the ports of Aqaba in Jordan and Eilat in Israel. “This project is not just a logistical improvement, it is a profound affirmation of Israel’s intention to become the linchpin of global maritime trade,” noted the Eurasianews.com news site on November 7.
We better understand the strategic importance of the Gaza Strip for the construction of the Ben-Gurion Canal. The junction would then take place with the large Israeli port of Haifa, further north, without any competition in the Eastern Mediterranean: the port of Beirut, in Lebanon, was destroyed three years ago and that of Latakia, in Syria, is regularly bombed by Israel. Both from a security and logistical point of view (for the extension of this oil terminal), the north of the Gaza Strip – at a minimum – should not represent any danger.
What better option for this than a territory emptied of its inhabitants? Especially since there are significant gas deposits off the coast of Gaza. Last June, Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he intended to accelerate its exploitation “within the framework of existing agreements between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority”.
While secret negotiations were underway between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Hamas declared that it would not allow the Israelis to use the Gaza gas field issue as an instrument to reach political and security agreements with ‘other parts.
Israeli relentlessness against the Palestinian enclave, made possible by the deadly Hamas attack, could well find its source in these energy projects with colossal investments. The Gulf countries, the United States and the European Union, which are not making the slightest gesture to force Israel into a ceasefire, are stakeholders. The lives of Palestinians are measured by pipelines.
L’Humanité of November 21, 2023