A Lebanese refused, and Washington denied sponsoring a deal.. Why does Tel Aviv insist that the Egyptian gas for Lebanon is Israeli?
Experts say that Tel Aviv is not in its interest to activate the Arab gas pipeline, without obtaining any gains. Therefore, it is putting pressure on Lebanon in the file of border demarcation to limit the drilling operations that Beirut is carrying out in the disputed waters with Israel.
Beirut- Israel continues to question the source of Egyptian gas, which Lebanon is waiting for through the “Arab Line” after the completion of the agreement, technically, logistically and financially.
And it is not the first time that the Israeli media have claimed that Washington has agreed to an agreement to supply gas to Lebanon, and that it will be transported from Israel to Jordan, and then through the pipeline to Syria and from there to Lebanon, which the US State Department hastened to deny, as reported by the channel – 12 Hebrew.
The Israeli media has been promoting this narrative since the agreement of the Ministers of Energy and Oil in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Syria, in September 2021, on a road map to supply Lebanon with Jordanian electricity and Egyptian gas, to contribute to solving its major energy crisis.
Officially, the Lebanese Ministry of Energy and Water denied Israeli reports about Washington sponsoring an Israeli gas supply agreement for Lebanon, stressing that the text of the agreement is explicit in terms of transporting gas from Egypt through Jordan and Syria to Lebanon. The US State Department also denied reports of Washington sponsoring an energy deal between Lebanon and Israel, under which Israel will transfer quantities of gas to Lebanon via Jordan and Syria.
The Israeli allegations met with great resonance in Beirut due to its sensitivity towards an “enemy of Lebanon” entity, and prompted many to question the truth about the source of the gas, even if it was transported by the same pipeline between Egypt and Israel, and mixed with it.
What do the experts say?
According to the agreement, Egypt is supposed to provide Lebanon with about 60 million cubic feet of gas per day, through the Egyptian “EGAS” company for natural gases, through the “swap” process from the gas fields in Homs, where the end point of the transit line from Egypt, Jordan and Syria is located. .
Here, the expert and consultant in oil affairs, Rabie Yaghi, explains the technical side, pointing out that there are two gas pipelines in Egypt, the first one starts from Al-Arish and connects the gas pipeline to Israel. As for the second, it is the Arabic calligraphy, and it reaches from Al-Arish to Jordan and Syria. According to the plan, it was supposed to reach Lebanon, but it stopped at Homs in Syria.
The technical expert said that Israel was importing gas from Al-Arish, and the process became reversed, as the occupying country began to export gas to Egypt for the purpose of liquefying it from Al-Arish, and then it is exported.
He explains that Israel does not transport through the Arab gas pipeline, and has no authority over the gas that exits Egypt for export to Jordan and then Syria, and that Lebanon has a gas pipeline built about 32 kilometers long that connects it with Homs.
What refutes the Israeli allegations – in his opinion – that Syria will take the Egyptian gas and give it instead to Lebanon in the same quantity and quality. Consequently, Lebanon will obtain Syrian gas for a certain fee for the transmission line.
The construction of the Arab Gas Pipeline dates back to 2003. Egypt had previously exported natural gas to Lebanon through it between 2009 and 2011. Then, Lebanon imported electricity at a rate of 250 megawatts, in intermittent stages during the Syrian war, and stopped permanently in 2019, in anticipation of the sanctions of the American “Caesar” law against the Syrian regime.
Lebanon contracts with Egypt only
Mark Ayoub, an academic and researcher in the field of energy at the American University of Beirut, agrees with Yaghi’s technical diagnosis, considering that the Lebanese state cannot sign a gas agreement that it suspects is an Israeli source, because if the project is revealed, the government and parliament will automatically drop it.
For his part, Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayyad confirms that the Egyptian side assured him and Prime Minister Najib Mikati that the gas source is 100% Egyptian.
Fayyad told Al Jazeera Net that Lebanon contracts directly with Egypt, and is not concerned with its commercial relations and for those who export gas, and that his country will eventually get gas from Syria, which according to him also needs Egyptian gas due to the infringements on its lines during the war.
Lebanon relies a lot on the agreement to supply Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity, and their completion would raise the country’s feeding hours to about 10 hours per day, with Iraqi fuel (crude oil) included. However, this project did not have many obstacles:
- Technically, the lines were repaired, specifically in the Lebanese and Syrian sides, and the supply of gas was postponed after it was scheduled for January 2022.
- Financially, how will Lebanon obtain a World Bank loan to pay for gas for at least the first year, and obtaining it is also coupled with reform conditions.
- In the United States, concern continues over the extent of Washington’s seriousness in giving a green light exempting the parties to the agreement from “Caesar’s sanctions” for their dealings with the Syrian regime. While Egypt demands an official exception and not satisfied with verbal assurances, Washington’s ambassador to Beirut, Dorothy Shea, delivered the Lebanese Prime Minister’s message, including some assurances about facilitating the access of gas and electricity, and requested not to worry about sanctions.
What are the reasons for Israel’s confusion over Lebanon?
In 2018, Lebanon signed the first contract for gas and oil exploration, part of which is located in “Block 9” in territorial waters disputed with Israel. Consequently, Lebanon will not be able to drill until the indirect border demarcation negotiations are completed.
These negotiations, which have been conducted under American mediation since October 2021, have been suspended due to the dispute over the maps of marine areas, and Lebanon’s demand to negotiate an area of 2,290 km, based on its maps, instead of an area of 860 km.
It is assumed that the American mediator, Amos Holstein, will soon come to Beirut to move the file of demarcation of the maritime borders, according to what was announced recently by the Lebanese Foreign Minister, Abdullah Bouhabib.
Based on this, the researcher at the American University considers that Israel, with Washington behind it, is pressing towards including Egyptian gas in one basket with other demands from Lebanon, foremost of which is the demarcation of the borders.
Ayoub said that there is an implicit link between Egyptian gas and the demarcation of the border, which prompts Israel to continue to provoke and confuse Lebanon to extract more concessions, through two ways:
- The delusion of the international and Arab media that collapsing Lebanon benefits from Israeli gas, and that normalization processes in its various direct and indirect forms are not difficult.
- Putting pressure on Lebanon with the file of border demarcation, and submitting to its conditions.
According to the advisor on oil affairs, Yaghi, Israel is not in its interest to activate the Arab gas pipeline, without obtaining gains.
For his part, writer and political analyst Daoud Rammal believes that if Israel can later prove that Lebanon benefits from its gas through Egypt, the companies that will explore for gas in Lebanese fields in the future may push to network with the Israeli pipeline in order to demand Lebanon to pay instead of using the Israeli tanker, “and this is what It cannot be passed through Lebanon with agreements and contracts.”