Israel’s Gas Offers Lifeline for Peace

tamar-platform-mediteranean-sea-off-israelNew York Times

THE TAMAR PLATFORM, Israel — Alarms rang out across the Tamar natural gas platform off the coast of Israel.

The Israeli navy had detected smoky signs that a rocket might have been fired by Hamas from the shores of Gaza. As a voice over the loudspeaker warned to take cover, the crew raced up the metal stairs to a small gym that doubles as an air raid shelter.

It turned out to be a false alarm.

Natural gas is both a geopolitical tool and a target in Israel, where a newfound bonanza of resources has the potential to improve ties with energy-hungry Egypt, Jordan and even the Palestinian Authority.

But the linchpin of this diplomatic push is not an Israeli official, a Middle Eastern king or an American ambassador. It is an oil company in Texas.

Noble Energy, the Houston-based company that runs the Tamar platform and is developing another field nearby, has struck a series of deals in recent months to sell gas from Israel to its neighbors, an export strategy encouraged by the Obama administration to help ease tensions in the region. Both Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have signed preliminary agreements in recent months, while Noble is in talks to supply larger amounts of gas to Egypt.

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