The economic balance of power in the Middle East teeters, often uneasily, on the region’s fuel reserves. Until recently, Israel was not part of that delicate equation. In 2009, however, about fifty miles off the coast of Haifa, a massive natural gas reserve was discovered at what is known as Tamar field. That was followed in 2010 by the discovery, not far from Tamar, of another field—it was at the time the largest natural gas find in more than a decade. It was dubbed Leviathan.
Energy independence is a status much to be desired, and these reserves, if all goes well, will ensure it for Israel. If all goes marvelously, Israel will be in a position to help supply its neighbors—even those as far away as Europe—with gas. As the country’s energy minister, Yuval Steinitz, put it in January of this year: “Suddenly, we are an energy player.”
These are uncertain times, and of course the discovery of energy reserves does not guarantee peace, at home or abroad—history has shown us this in countless ways. But there are reasons to be optimistic. A recent New York Times article notes that “the potential for enhancing Israel’s relations with its neighbors is alluring.” New connections have already been forged with Jordan (which has agreed to purchase $10 billion in natural gas from Israel over the next fifteen years), and Israel is hoping for new alliances with Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, and beyond.
At home, Israeli gas now produces more than half of the country’s electricity, and the economy has received a welcome boost. Its new position as an “energy player” may win Israel new friends in the energy game.