Israel-UAE oil deal raises environmental and security concerns in Tel Aviv
Israeli Minister of Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel called the head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben Shabbat to cancel a recently signed oil deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), noting that transporting oil through Israel would cause environmental damage and an increased risk of attacks on ships and storage facilities in the region, reported the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on June 8.
The agreement, which was finalized six months ago, essentially allows the transport of UAE oil to the Mediterranean, via the company’s pipeline. The Europe Asia Pipeline Company estimates that the number of tankers arriving in Israel will increase from six to more than 50 each year, the newspaper reported. Under the agreement, tankers are already arriving in Eilat, carrying hundreds of thousands of tonnes of oil.
“This agreement is of great political importance but also of economic importance for the two countries, because it cements their rapprochement following the Abrahamic accords,” he added. Charles Ellinas, senior researcher, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council, told New Europe on June 11. The Abrahamic Accords marked the normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. “But it would almost certainly be a target in a future outbreak between Hamas and Israel, especially given the strong condemnation of the rapprochement by the Palestinians,” he argued, adding, “As such, this agreement would pose a security issue. Moreover, in Israel, environmental issues are always at the forefront of public concern and it is not surprising that the Minister of Environmental Protection has been an exception to this agreement, especially since it seems that it was not consulted during its conception.
Ellinas warned that any attack on oil facilities associated with the deal could have devastating environmental consequences in an area of such importance to the Israeli tourism industry. “With a change of government on the horizon in Israel, it remains to be seen how this issue will be dealt with,” said the chief energy officer at the Atlantic Council.
Israeli lawmakers are expected to issue a vote of confidence on the Bennett-Lapid government on June 13, followed by an oath-taking ceremony for the new government. As part of an agreement unveiled on June 2, Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Yamina party, joins Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, and six other parties spanning the political spectrum, including an independent Arab party for the first time, the WSJ reported.
According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection, in a letter to the National Security Council on June 8, argues that the oil transport agreement with the United Arab Emirates should be canceled due to the numerous risks for marine ecological systems in the event of malfunctions or hostile actions. According to the ministry, the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline storage complex is located in the most sensitive part of the famous Coral Beach nature reserve and conservation area. Due to the structure of Eilat Bay and the relatively strong currents and winds, any leakage will lead to rapid contamination of coral reefs, the ministry warned.
Following the Abraham accords in 2020, UAE’s Mubadala Petroleum, which is owned by Mubadala Investment Co, a sovereign fund with $ 232 billion in assets, signed a memorandum of understanding in April 2021 to purchase a 22% stake in Israel’s offshore Tamar. located 90 kilometers west of Haifa and can produce 11 billion cubic meters of gas per year. The field holds more than 300 billion cubic meters of gas reserves and is operated by US energy giant Chevron which has a 25% stake.
Ellinas told New Europe that the deal is more likely to outlast political tensions in the Middle East. “He has the full support of the United States, especially since the operator of Tamar is one of the largest American oil companies, Chevron,” he said, explaining that in addition, the Mubadala’s involvement in the project is commercial and not physical. The Tamar operator will remain with Chevron, with Mubadala becoming one of the shareholders in the field.
“Once again, the project cements the development of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the two countries – and the companies involved – benefiting economically, but also politically from this project,” Ellinas said, adding that Tamar is a project very profitable, at the heart of Israel’s energy. needs and security, and it also exports gas to Egypt and Jordan.