Energy as an Element of Israel’s National Security


Vol. 8, No. 13    October 26, 2008

  • Israel today is at the height of a revolution whose main focus is the integration of natural gas into the electricity and industrial sectors. The desalination plant in Ashkelon, which is one of the largest in the world, is using natural gas, as is the paper mill in Hadera.
  • Israel is in contact with the government of Turkey regarding the construction of an infrastructure corridor called the Med Stream, which is planned to contain three pipelines. One is for crude oil, meaning that what arrives through the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline or the Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline will continue on to Israel. The second pipeline will be for natural gas. The third pipeline could be used for water, electricity, or even fiber optic communications.
  • Israel is one of the leading countries in the world in developing technologies to produce electricity through renewable energy, mostly in the solar field. The National Infrastructures Ministry envisions a plan up to the year 2020 that will guarantee energy in the coming decades based on 40 percent natural gas, 40 percent coal, and up to 20 percent renewable energy.
  • Ahmadinejad with nuclear weaponry means a different Middle East, and the first victim is not going to be Israel. The first victims are going to be Arab countries, the Sunni countries in the Gulf area, Egypt and Jordan. Some of them are the West’s best allies, but the West is keeping quiet. The answer to this threat is very clear: cooperation and coordination between all countries, because all of us are going to be targets.
  • If Europe and America want to guarantee their security, then they have to respond to Iran. It doesn’t have to be a military response. It’s enough that a decision be taken to totally isolate Iran – no import, no export. If this is done, then it will be enough.

A Shift from Oil to Natural Gas

Energy security is a component of national security. In the world, energy consumption is still based on fossil resources whose reserves are diminishing, which means crude oil and natural gas prices will keep going up.

In the current geo-political situation, Israel is like an island. In a world with irrational leaders such as Hugo Chavez and Mohammed Ahmadinejad, Israel must do its utmost to secure its energy supply in order to preserve its security and way of life. The Ministry of National Infrastructures is acting in a number of arenas in parallel to assure Israel’s long-term energy security.

Israel today is at the height of a revolution whose main focus is the integration of natural gas into the electricity and industrial sectors. The desalination plant in Ashkelon, which is one of the largest in the world, is using natural gas, as is the paper mill in Hadera.

For the past three years the ministry has been in contact with the government of Turkey regarding the construction of an infrastructure corridor called the Med Stream, in parallel with establishing a dialog with natural gas-producing countries. We are talking about building an infrastructure corridor that connects Ceyhan in Turkey to Haifa and Ashkelon. Ceyhan is the last point of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) crude oil pipeline that starts in Baku and runs through Georgia to Turkey.

The Med Stream corridor is planned to contain three pipelines. One is for crude oil, meaning that what arrives through the BTC or Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline will continue on to Israel. The second pipeline will be for natural gas. The third pipeline could be used for water, electricity, or even fiber optic communications.

All this is in addition to natural gas coming from Egypt through a pipeline from El Arish to Ashkelon. This pipeline, built by EMG, one of the leading companies in Egypt, has been operational since May 2008 and it is to operate under a twenty-year contract. I believe that it’s not enough to sign papers for peace. Peace has to be cemented by economic projects. In May 2005 I signed a memorandum of understanding in Egypt for the import of Egyptian natural gas, and now it’s a reality.

At the same time, Israel is conducting talks with British Gas about natural gas production under the sea opposite Gaza. Hopefully, this will result in a long-term agreement as well.

Renewable Energy

Israel is one of the leading countries in the world in developing technologies to produce electricity through renewable energy, mostly in the solar field. In the next two decades, we hope to become almost fully energy independent through the construction of new solar energy stations, mainly in the southern part of Israel between Beersheba and Eilat. We have already issued three tenders and seven large companies from all over the world entered bids, including companies from Israel. We are going to do everything possible to enter this channel of renewable and alternative energy.

But that is not enough. We must deal aggressively with managing demand as well and improve energy efficiency. In addition, we have now issued some tenders for wind power stations in the Golan Heights and near Eilat. Adopting an aggressive renewable energy policy and implementing demand side management will hopefully bring Israel closer to energy security.

Our ministry envisions a plan up to the year 2020 that will guarantee energy in the coming decades based on 40 percent natural gas, 40 percent coal, and up to 20 percent renewable energy.

The World’s Double Game Over Iran

The show made by Ahmadinejad at the United Nations indicates how the world is playing a double game. During the day we hear resolutions and statements condemning Iran and during the night the story is different. There are more than 1,200 companies all over Europe working directly with Iran.

Whether we like it or not, Ahmadinejad is moving very fast toward producing nonconventional weaponry. The world should be very worried. Israel will overcome, but I feel sorry for those who do not comprehend exactly what is going to happen the day after.

Ahmadinejad with nuclear weaponry means a different Middle East, and the first victim is not going to be Israel. The first victims are going to be Arab countries, the Sunni countries in the Gulf area, Egypt and Jordan. Some of them are the West’s best allies, but the West is keeping quiet. The answer to this threat is very clear: cooperation and coordination between all countries, because all of us are going to be targets.

I hope that when the world wakes up one day, it will not be too late. I know that many countries have nuclear capabilities, but with all of those countries we are speaking the same language. The Islamists speak a different language. I couldn’t understand the Palestinians who used to be suicide bombers. I used to go to the prisons to meet those who had been captured on suicide operations, to ask them one question: “Why?” They would respond with speeches of half an hour or an hour, and I couldn’t understand one word, though I speak, write, and read the Arabic language. I couldn’t understand what they were talking about.

With regard to Iran, let me put this very clearly. I think Israel should be ready to defend itself. History has shown that we must do everything to guarantee our security. However, I don’t think that Israel should be in the first row with regard to Iran. Iran is very rapidly pursuing the enrichment of uranium and within two or three years they will produce, with great fanfare, their first nuclear weapon. This should be a worry first of all to the free world. This should be a case where America should ask a lot of questions. Who is going to guarantee security when we are talking with people that today have no basis for mutual understanding with the West? Those people are talking in the name of God. I think America should be worried and, once and for all, Europe should be very worried, too.

Europe and America, the Western world, have to decide. If they want to guarantee their security, then they have to respond. It doesn’t have to be a military response. It’s enough that a decision be taken to totally isolate Iran – no import, no export. If this is done, then it will be enough. Then they will understand that nobody is going to play games with them. Israel should not stop for one second trying to explain to the world the consequences of a nuclear Iran. And the world has to decide whether to live with that.

I’m expecting the Western world to respond. I’m expecting America to respond. I’m expecting a part of the Arab world, whom I respect very much, to raise its voice – because otherwise they’re going to be eaten.

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Brig.-Gen. (res.) Binyamin Ben-Eliezer retired from the IDF in 1984 after serving as first Commanding Officer in Southern Lebanon, operating as army liaison between the Lebanese Christian militias and Israel. He was Military Governor of Judea and Samaria and later Government Coordinator of Activities in the Administered Areas. Elected to the Knesset in 1984, Ben-Eliezer has served as Minister of Housing and Construction, Minister of Communications, Minister of Defense, and as Deputy Prime Minister. He now serves as Minister of National Infrastructures and is a long-standing member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. This Jerusalem Issue Brief is based on his presentation at the Institute for Contemporary Affairs on September 24, 2008.

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Binyamin Ben-Eliezer

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Binyamin Ben-Eliezer was Military Governor of Judea and Samaria and later Government Coordinator of Activities in the Administered Areas in the 1980s. Elected to the Knesset in 1984, Ben-Eliezer has served as Minister of Housing and Construction, Minister of Communications, Minister of Defense, and as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Infrastructures. He is currently a Labor MK.