Blood for gas: Why Bibi is punishing Gaza
Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of 'Globalistan' (Nimble Books, 2007), 'Red Zone Blues' (Nimble Books, 2007), 'Obama does Globalistan' (Nimble Books, 2009) and a contributing editor for a number of other books, including the upcoming 'Crossroads of Leadership: Globalization and the New American Century in the Obama Presidency' (Routledge). When not on the road, he alternates between Sao Paulo, New York, London, Bangkok and Hong Kong.
A quick recap is essential. US Secretary of State John “Bullhorn” Kerry was conducting a sham exercise known as “peace talks” between Israel and Palestine. As expected, it failed miserably. Hamas and the PLO in Palestine then formed a technocratic unity government. Bibi was, predictably, furious.
Then two Palestinians – not Hamas – kidnapped three Israeli teenager settlers hitchhiking at night near Hebron. One of the hitchhikers somehow managed to call an Israeli police emergency number on his mobile. The kidnappers freaked out and shot the hitchhikers on the spot, dumping their bodies.
Then all of Israel freaked out. For three weeks, tens of thousands of soldiers were involved in search parties. The media went berserk – immolating Palestinians in a racist funeral pyre.
There’s wild speculation all across the Arab street this has been an Israeli false flag. Evidence, though, seems to point to the 10,000-strong Qawasmeh tribe in the Hebron region – which is known historically to openly antagonize Hamas and attack Israeli settlers. There’s also the possibility the kidnappers wanted to use the hitchhikers for an exchange with Palestinian prisoners.
Bibi and Shin Bet military intelligence knew from the start the three settlers were dead – and who was responsible. But Bibi simply could not pass up the opportunity to use the incident – during the frenzied three-week search – as a build-up to go after Hamas in both West Bank and Gaza, an operation planned way in advance.
This past Tuesday, the Israeli military spelled it all out: “We have been instructed by the political echelon to hit Hamas hard.” And in perfect Newspeak, the operation was branded a “just war.” (A detailed background to the conflict can be seen here.)
Israel wants it all
The numbers don’t do justice to the appalling carnage. By Monday, over northern Gaza, after Israel warned residents to leave the area to avoid airstrikes, at least 167 people were killed – the majority of them women, children and elderly civilians, 30 by Israeli rockets – and over 1,000 injured. Two hundred houses, not military installations, were totally destroyed and over 1,500 houses partially damaged.
Compare it to zero deaths in Israel. An IDF spokesperson gruesomely boasted that Gaza – a de facto slum/concentration camp – was being bombed every 4 1/2 minutes.
Each homemade rocket fired by the Palestinians cost less than $1,000. Meanwhile, a single Israeli Iron Dome missile supposed to intercept them costs up to $100,000 (without including the launching and control systems). On top of this, since Thursday a ground invasion has been dubbed “imminent.”
That Bibi is able to get away with this is all the Arab street – and most of the Global South – needs to know about America’s battleship/aircraft carrier in the Middle East. What most people don’t know about is those 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, worth at least $4 billion, discovered 14 years ago off the Gaza coast.
It’s easy to forget that at the time of Israel’s previous invasion of Gaza – Operation Cast Lead – gas fields in Palestine were outright confiscated by Israel. This “operation” was already an energy war, as Nafeez Ahmed analyzed here.
Then there is the Bigger Picture - the 122 trillion cubic feet of gas plus the potential 1.6 billion barrels of oil in the Levant Basin spread over the territorial waters of Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus and – of course – Gaza. These waters are as incandescently disputed as rocks and shoals in the South China Sea. Needless to say, Tel Aviv wants it all.
And to complement the picture, Israel faces an upcoming energy security nightmare, detailed here.
Even Tony Blair, the Phantom of the Opera, is involved. As the (failed) Quartet Middle East envoy, Blair came up with the brilliant plan of “developing” the Gaza gas fields via an agreement between British Gas and the Palestinian Authority, totally excluding Hamas and the people of Gaza.
The way Gaza is kept as a concentration camp, subjected to non-stop collective punishment, may be revolting enough. But then it must be added the key economic component: by all available means Gazans must be prevented from accessing the Marine-1 and Marine-2 gas fields. These will be gobbled up by Israel. From every angle, and for all practical purposes, Israel lords over all Palestinian natural resources – land, water and energy.
So here’s the “secret” of Operation Protect the Zionists, sorry, Protective Edge: without smashing Hamas, which controls Gaza, Israel cannot drill off the Gaza coast. For Bibi as well as the Knesset, the possibility that the Palestinians could have access to their own gas-generated wealth is an absolute red line.
And the EU may be on it as well. No one in Brussels will admit it, but it’s easy to conceive “strategists” regarding this takeover of Palestinian gas fields opening the door in the future for the EU being less dependent on Gazprom, and a substantial importer of (stolen) Israeli gas.
Israel’s Newspeak is old news; after all they are masters of fooling no one but themselves. Expanding on what Michael Klare has brilliantly detailed, the new, open-ended, collective punishment inflicted on Gaza is most of all a blood-for-gas energy war.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.