Secret Talks Move Israel-Gaza Gas Line Forward

YERUSHALAYIM -

Secret negotiations for the import of Israeli natural gas to the Gaza Strip have resulted in a preliminary agreement, Globes reported, citing informed sources on Thursday evening.

Closely held talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, led by the Quartet on the Middle East, secured an agreement in principle from the Israel Security Cabinet, and the Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources authorized the Leviathan partners several days ago to conduct negotiations.

The Quartet has committed itself to financing a gas pipeline to be laid by Israel up to the Gaza border.

However, the Leviathan partners and Israel National Gas Lines Company have refrained from commenting on the report.

To date, power plants existing in Gaza are insufficient, providing electricity for only about eight hours a day. In addition, the PA’s failure to collect payment for the electricity it supplies to Gaza residents has resulted in a debt to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) of an estimated more than 2 billion shekels.

According to a senior Palestinian source familiar with the matter said that the negotiations “had reached the last hurdle,” and that they’d had a series of meetings with Israel National Gas Lines, which is responsible for building gas pipelines throughout Israel.

However, even a best-case scenario would have to put actual implementation of an agreement years in the future.

Approval for the route of the pipeline could take three years. Allow another three years for construction of the pipeline. If put on a very fast track, that could be shortened to about three years, according to a Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources source.

In any case, he reminds us, gas from the Leviathan field is not expected to begin flowing before late 2019.