By Arlene Bridges Samuels
In past centuries, explorers could never have imagined sailing the seas in search of underwater treasures beyond those in sunken ships. However, in today’s explorations, another kind of fortune lies deep: natural offshore riches accessible only through modern technology. Indeed, the 1999 discovery of natural gas fields off Israel’s coast set off an energy “seaquake” of massive reserves in a world beset by increasing energy anxiety.
On June 6, the Israeli Navy escorted a new natural gas rig into the Mediterranean. Israel contracted with Energean Power, a British energy company, to locate its new floating production, storage, and offloading vessel in the Karish (“shark”) gas field that was discovered in 2019. From the Marine Admiralty Yard in Singapore, two tugs guided the 772-ton rig on a journey of 5,532 nautical miles. After 35 days—crossing six seas—they finally cruised through the Suez Canal. The Karish rig now sits in the Mediterranean Sea about 90 miles west of Haifa. And it may be operational in the last quarter of this year.
As examples of potential, the Tamar and Leviathan fields, operating since 2004 and 2009 respectively, have drilled into the depths of the energy treasure chests to tap into a combined extract potential of an estimated 690 billion cubic meters of natural gas. And that’s good news for the energy-dependent nations of Europe.
Presently, the small Jewish state’s big rigs are towering in their Mediterranean maritime zone and rising into one of the world’s leading natural gas resources. Although Russia has the world’s largest gas reserves, Israel’s massive fields are God’s resounding blessing, as their modern land mass is only 270 miles long and 85 miles wide.
Psalm 37:6-8 is a beautiful reminder: “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses.”
The natural gas fields are set to profit—and even rescue—other nations, as well. On June 15 Israel, Egypt, and the European Union inked a significant agreement for Israel to export natural gas to Egypt, where it will be liquified for export to Europe.
The trilateral memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed in Cairo at the East Mediterranean Gas Forum by Israel’s Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Tarek El-Molla, Egyptian Minister of Petroleum. El-Molla told reporters in December that Egypt’s two liquefying production facilities were fully operational after the Damietta plant had been dormant for eight years. The trilateral agreement is a win-win-win in an era of global energy challenges and complexities.
Commissioner von der Leyen was full of praise. “What a special moment,” she exclaimed. “I very warmly welcome the signing of this historic agreement.” She went on to say that Israel’s energy and water economy make them a “key player in the world.” It was a refreshing change of tone from EU leaders who have a habit of praising Palestinians and criticizing Israel at the United Nations.
Israel drills, Egypt liquifies, and then ships will ply the waters to Europe, carrying Israeli and Egyptian energy relief to liberate Europe from its dependence on Russian gas.
With the Russian bear and Europe sharing many borders, Europe’s fortunes have been diminishing amid worries about energy and food shortages. Since Russia launched its assaults against Ukraine earlier this year, Europe has implemented anti-Russian sanctions that have put their own energy supplies at risk. With Europe currently beholden to Russian gas, Israel is now a hero in the eyes of Europeans.
After signing the trilateral agreement in Cairo on June 15, EU Commissioner von der Leyen made news a few days later in Brussels about Ukraine’s application for membership in NATO. In a June 17 Tweet she proclaimed, “Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live with us the European dream.”
Although her words are hopeful, the 27 EU member states meet June 23-24 to consider Ukraine’s admittance to NATO. Their decision must be unanimous. Amid discussions that are tangled in competitive country applications and a myriad of hoops that applicants must jump through, allowing Ukraine to join NATO quickly—or at all—would be a miracle.
Challenges to Ukraine’s membership are also making waves north of Israel where the words “complexity” and “ultimatums” find no better home than in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, despite the admirable MOU agreements between Israel, Egypt, and the European Union, a maritime dispute is underway that could blow these plans right out of the water. Interim Lebanese Prime Minister Mikati has charged Israel with “encroaching on Lebanon’s maritime wealth and imposing a fait accompli in a disputed area.” Adding Hezbollah’s terrorist threats has prompted Israel to increase security with naval, submarine, and missile defense assets for the Karish field.
The United States has served as an on-and-off mediator since 2000, when the maritime disputes arose with the first discoveries of natural gas. Lebanon’s economy is on life support, so it is not surprising that they desperately contend for the maritime border. In response, Israel’s Energy Minister Karine Elharrar said on Army Radio that the field was “entirely in undisputed territory” and that even the United Nations says it is not in Lebanon’s waters.
On June 17, CNN reported that negotiations are taking place with compromise proposals from mediator Amos Hochstein, U.S. senior advisor for energy security. The major problem seems to be that Lebanon and Israel calculate the maritime border with two differing methods. The U.S. compromise proposes an S-shaped maritime boundary where Karish would go to Israel and another field that holds potential for natural gas would go to Lebanon.
God is using Israel once again to bless the world, this time from the oceans He created. As Christian advocates for Israel, may we continue to proclaim God’s plans for Israel as promised in Genesis 12:3: “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Join CBN Israel this week in praising God for His beautiful creation and lifting up prayers for this historic memorandum of understanding:
- Pray for a compromise agreement beneficial to both Israel and Lebanon.
- Pray for U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein to persist in wise, acceptable proposals.
- Pray with praises for our Creator God who has given the world the gift of oceans.
- Pray that Israel’s energy rescue in Europe will open the eyes of Israel’s enemies.
Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, a guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.