Comptroller Says Offshore Gas Vulnerable to Attack

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israeli government inefficiency has left offshore gas facilities vulnerable to attack, charged State Comptroller Joseph Shapira, The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday.

“The discoveries of gas in the economic waters of Israel are of immense economic and strategic value to the Israeli economy, and therefore the gas facilities are likely to serve as targets to hostile states and terrorist organizations,” Shapira wrote in his latest report. “Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah has even explicitly threatened to harm the gas rigs of Israel.”

Yet, despite the crucial importance of the gas fields, the government has been to slow to act to protect them.

In November 2010, a National Security Council team began work on formulating a proposal for the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs as to which bodies or authorities will be responsible for protecting them. While they conferred, the gas facilities were guarded by private security companies using mostly veterans of combat units.

Completion of the proposal — which assigned responsibility to the IDF — was scheduled for the first quarter of 2011, but was not submitted until April 2013, and not approved by the committee until November.

The IDF did not exactly spring into action, either. “In practice, the protection provided by the navy to gas facilities in the area, correct up to the date of the audit, December 2013, is incomplete,” Shapira wrote.

“Considering the real threat on the gas facilities at sea and in light of the fact that the Tamar rig began supplying gas in April 2013, the National Security Council should have required this subject to be more intensely promoted,” Shapira wrote.

“Moreover, the documents show that the National Security Council itself determined that ‘we must not delay the establishment of operational response.’” Due to the lack of a decision in place, facilities were therefore already operating without a clearly defined protection scheme and therefore were doing so under much risk, according to the report.

The IDF was quick to respond to Shapira’s criticism on Thursday.

The Spokesman’s Office said the IDF welcomes the report and will be studying it carefully.

Acknowledging that the decision to task the navy with protecting the country’s “vital interests in its economic waters,” the IDF presented the committee with an operational proposal, the spokesman said. A future system would include surface ships, security ships, unarmed aerial vehicles and intelligence collectors.

“Meanwhile, and in accordance with the decision of the committee, the navy performs its tasks through the means at its disposal and conducts tours in the defense territory that was defined based on various, periodical situation evaluations,” the IDF Spokesman’s Office said.