Israeli Luck and the Power of Gas Pipes

Looking back at the 65 years we’ll be celebrating in 10 days, one cannot but notice that we are, despite everything, lucky.

Ultimately, we’re a lucky people. True, Moses led us in the desert for 40 years to bring us to one of the only countries around with no oil. True, when Herzl took many of us out of Europe he brought us to the most zealous, conflicted, violent place in the world. True, our national leadership is nothing to write home about; neither is our political system, and our middle class hasn’t quite decided what it is yet.

But looking back at the 65 years we’ll be celebrating in 10 days, one cannot but notice that we are, despite everything, lucky. Time after time we did it. Every time, the concealed hand of a benevolent fate has done us good. Throughout all our years, when it seemed the walls of history were closing in on us, some unexpected event occurred to take us out into the open space.

In the mid-’50s Israel found itself in dire strategic distress − the cooperation between the Soviet Union and modern Arab nationalism threatened its future. Then the surprising alliance with France came along and gave us the Mysteres, Mirages and Dimona − turning us into a mini-power.

In the mid ‘60s France turned its back on Israel, leaving it dangerously isolated. Along came the surprising alliance with the United States, which gave us the Skyhawks and Phantoms and the air shuttle − enabling us to endure the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War.

At the end of the ‘70s the surprising peace with Egypt got us out of the post-traumatic depression from the debacle of 1973. At the end of the ‘80s the surprising immigration from the former Soviet Union states released us − for a time − from the demographic nightmare. In the ‘90s the great high-tech surprise, which turned us into a vigorous “start-up nation,” enabled us to cope with the strategic distress of Oslo’s ruins.

In every decade, an event that could not be foreseen took place, creating a dramatic turning point that improved the Jewish state’s situation. The goddess of luck allowed Israel to pull quite a number of Houdini tricks that freed it from the shackles of the burdensome reality threatening to drown it.

There’s no doubt the great lucky event of this decade is finding the natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea’s eastern basin. Already this year, homemade gas will reduce Israeli industry’s expenses and improve its profitability. In a short while it will grant Israel energy independence that will enhance growth. By the end of the decade, Israel’s gas exports will funnel revenues into the state coffers, enabling it to finance its own defense, education and social justice.

But the dramatic significance of the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields is not merely economic. An Israeli-Turkish gas pipe could stabilize the delicate relationship between the two recently reconciled non-Arab regional powers. An Israeli-Jordanian gas pipe could nail down the vital relationship between the Hashemite Kingdom and the Zionist movement. An Israeli-Palestinian gas pipe could ease − somewhat − the conflict with our neighbors and reduce the risk of violent deterioration in the West Bank.

Israeli-Egyptian gas cooperation could provide a solid economic foundation for the rickety peace between the two states. In view of the regional upheavals, the lucky offering of Israeli gas is becoming an asset whose strategic value is no smaller than its economic one.

Really, what luck. The new era in the Middle East is fraught with perils. The chance to attain that peace we dreamed about in the ‘90s is almost lost. But a creative use of the burst of hope that suddenly spurted off our shores could help Israel deal with the challenging strategic reality. If we act wisely, Israeli gas will enable us to pull off this decade’s Houdini trick.