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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid