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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More