In the Mediterranean days before the signing of a trilateral pipeline deal with Greece and Cyprus, Israel is pumping gas from a large field.
After several delays due to legal challenges from Israeli residents who oppose the scheme, the “flushing process” began. The Israeli authorities promise that it will end coal dependency and revolutionize the economy by turning the contentious state from an importer of energy to an exporter.
Israel’s environmental minister, Ze’ev Elkin, said “hysteria” was unfounded when Leviathan began gas extraction.
The ministry said the level of emissions from the offshore gas field was expected to be low.
Residents say the rig will cause seas and air pollution to be dangerous.
Activists “accused me of taking Chernobyl to Israel,” Elkin said, adding that in steps to abandon coal use, gas represented an environmental achievement.
“It’s a huge economic boost for Israel as well. The money that comes into the state coffers goes to defence, schooling, healthcare, health–it’s a modern source of income that the State of Israel had not before, “he said, providing a familiar glimpse into Israel’s priorities.
Israel’s energy minister, Yuval Steinitz, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be visiting Athens this week to sign the Mediterranean gas pipeline to Europe.
“Feasting is fair,” Elkin told the media. “We just became an energy force.” Sammy Revel, the Israeli ambassador to Cyprus, said the agreement would be a significant step forward in trilateral cooperation. Parallel to the rise in the intransigence of Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ties have deepened.
Turkey and the troubled UN-recognized Libyan government concluded military cooperation and maritime boundary deals in Tripoli in November, ignoring Cyprus and straddling the path of the pipeline.
Revel said: “The large amounts of natural gas found in Israel and Cyprus ‘ exclusive economic zones, as well as the potential for more discoveries, create a major opportunity–an opportunity for bilateral and global cooperation.” The agreement was based on a common “ambition to export natural gas to Europe,” added the ambassador.
The EastMed pipeline is a planned 1,900 km link between Israel and the European Union that aims to undermine Russia’s gas supply supremacy.
The pipeline should have an annual capacity of 10 billion cubic meters of gas to Greece and Italy.