News / Middle East

Private Israeli-Palestinian Gas Deal Still Hostage to Politics

FILE - A tanker loaded with fuel for Gaza enters the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, April 4, 2012.
FILE - A tanker loaded with fuel for Gaza enters the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, April 4, 2012.
Reuters
— A billion-dollar deal signed this month involving an Israeli natural gas field and a Palestinian power firm marked a rare private-sector victory over political conflict, but it may need top-level support to succeed.

Palestinian officials say implementation will depend on guarantees by the governments of both sides, whose mutual distrust has grown amid troubled U.S.-backed peace talks.

The deal's Palestinian backers say Israel has pledged that any future political or security crisis will not interrupt the gas supply. No such assurance has been made publicly, however.

“There was a kind of guarantee from top levels in Israel ... that there would be a continuous flow of gas no matter what happens on the political front,” said Samir Huleileh, CEO of the Palestine Development and Investment Inc holding company.

PADICO holds an 18 percent stake in the Palestine Power Generation Company (PPGC) at the center of the deal, which Huleileh said had received the guarantee from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office less than a year ago.

Netanyahu's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Under the agreement, PPGC is to buy $1.2 billion of gas over 20 years from the U.S.-Israeli group developing the huge offshore Leviathan gas field.

At a signing ceremony on January 5, Israeli billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva, whose Delek Group is a major stakeholder in Leviathan, hailed the deal as historic and said it would bolster peace efforts. Delek officials, however, declined to speak to Reuters on any Israeli political backing for the deal.

Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa said his government looks favorably on the agreement, but that final approval would come only after it had seen the text of the contract and studied Israel's political commitments.

The Palestinian Authority exercises limited rule in the occupied West Bank, captured by Israel in 1967 along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. The Palestinians want that land for a future state.

Skepticism

Palestinians in the West Bank now buy electricity from Israel. If the PPGC were to get Palestinian government approval for the gas deal and complete a planned $300 million power plant in the northern West Bank, it would give Palestinians greater control over their electricity supply.

Some Palestinians oppose the deal, saying deeper economic ties with Israel runs counter to the quest for independence.

“To assume that Israel will honor this agreement and will continue to deliver the gas for a whole generation is quite an assumption,” said independent economic analyst Nasser Abdul Kareem.

“We have to free our country and people first, not make deals between an occupier and the occupied. We need to be less dependent on Israel, look east, diversify our partners and investors, especially among the Arabs, not stay hostage to Israel,” he said.

But according to Walid Salman, PPGC's chief executive, the Leviathan deal makes the most economic sense.

“Commercially, the agreement is a win-win. What's in the mind of the Palestinian Authority and Israel is not my field,” he told Reuters, referring to possible political complications.

“Palestine and Israel are neighbors - if you're going to get fuel, it's best is to get it from your neighbor not from overseas.”

Salman, who is also a regional manager for Palestinian Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC), said progress was being made in negotiations with exploration companies for the development of an offshore Gaza gas field found in 1998.

Gas from the field could generate net profit of $150 million a year from sales at home and abroad, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said late last year.

Officials have said a preliminary agreement between CCC and British Gas could lead to the start of production in 2017.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in public More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid