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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.