Israeli Minister Seeks to Delay East Med Gas Forum Citing Climate Concerns

Environment minister says regional group must also address climate change issues, a demand which Energy Minister Steinitz dismissed as 'ridiculous'

The Leviathan gas field, in 2019.
The Leviathan gas field, in 2019.Credit: Mark Israel Sellem

Israel's environmental protection minister is seeking to delay government approval of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, an intergovernmental organization promoting regional energy development whose members include Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

Gila Gamliel’s move, which is based on concerns about the forum’s environmental stances, may prevent what was supposed to be a rubber-stamp approval of the forum’s charter and require a cabinet discussion on it. With Israel in the midst of a political crisis, approval may be delayed, causing a delay in launching the forum itself.

How COVID – and Israel’s Trump-brokered lovefest with Arab states – are affecting PalestiniansCredit: Haaretz

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz has been shepherding Israel’s membership process in the forum, which is widely seen as having important political benefits to Israel as a group that brings it together with Arab states.

Steinitz dismissed Gamliel’s claims as “ridiculous” as the forum’s mandate is to deal with developing natural gas, not renewables,

Gamliel made known her objections Sunday, the last day for ministers to do so, saying in a letter to Cabinet Secretary Tzahi Braverman that the cabinet should discuss the charter’s failure to address climate change.

The forum’s charter must contain “a clear commitment to reducing emissions and developing technologies to reduce environmental damage, including greenhouse gas emissions and production processes, production, transportation and use of natural gas,” she said.

The environmental protection minister also objected to Palestinian Authority membership in the forum: “It is inconceivable that the PA, which funds terrorism and is a hostile body to the State of Israel, will receive equal status to the member states of the forum and will even be allowed to head it.”

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz attends the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF), in Cairo, on January 16, 2020.Credit: KHALED DESOUKI / AFP

Meanwhile, the United States is backing the construction of an undersea pipeline that would supply Europe with natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean, U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said on Thursday.

Although the pipeline plan faces huge technical obstacles as well financial difficulty given the low price of energy, Greece, Cyprus and Israel aim to reach a final investment decision by 2022 and have the 6-billion-euro ($7.4 billion) scheme completed by 2025 to help Europe diversify its energy resources.

“We are going to continue to work with Israel, Greece and other interested parties to ensure that the infrastructure will be developed,” Brouillette told reporters.

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