After recently discovering vast stores of natural gas in the waters of Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the country will now face a huge challenge in securing any apparatus that is constructed to harvest the valuable natural resource.
The discovery of such a valuable resource has complicated the security situation in the region immensely, but Israel stands to gain unprecedented strategic advantage if it can harvest the gas. Aside from ending an energy reliance on non-friendly nations such as Egypt, Israel would not only become self-reliant for natural gas energy, but could even become an exporter of the resource to Europe.
However, that is far from a reality at this point. With so many enemies in the region, and non-state actors such as Hezbollah pledging to attack and Israeli facilities that are constructed, the Jewish state will need to construct a maritime security apparatus that it does not have.
Israel will need to defend gas platforms against missiles, drones, vessel-based improvised explosive devices and potentially even submarines. This will be an expensive venture, as the Israeli Navy is far less-equipped than other branches of the military.
Given that the sea-space Israel must now secure is bigger than the land-territory of the country itself, this means the Navy will need to secure much additional funding. But those within the government are concerned that the security effort will be a prohibitive cost– estimates no are that the system would cost $700 million USD to build and another $100 million annually to maintain.
When compared to the money that has been sunk into gas exploration and drilling — $1.8 billion — the security finance projects pale in comparison. But in a country already facing cut-backs and tax-hikes, any amount of money is hard to come by.
But as a new-found vital strategic asset, Israel has no choice but to develop the platforms and do their best to defend them. In the long run, the financial gain far outweighs both the security risk and the initial investment.
Those within the Israeli Navy estimate that just to patrol the region, four new vessels will be ordered immediately, and further investments beyond that will be required. Israel will look to other countries defense strategies, such as Nigeria and Scandinavian countries that possess offshore energy assets.
Unfortunately, Israel sits in a very difficult geopolitical situation. The country is surrounded by enemies, including foreign nations, but also non-state actors who are unbound by international treaties and can easily resort to terrorism. Once set up, any damage to the energy harvesting apparatus will be severely damaging to Israel. In addition to these threats, many foreign nations are descending on the now resource-rich waters.