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Greece is ideally situated to serve as a hub for distributing Israeli gas to Europe, particularly since Turkey has rejected any notion of letting pipelines from Israel cross its territory. In return for giving Israel access to this market, Greece will earn much-needed revenue. Athens has yet to demarcate its Exclusive Economic Zone in the Mediterranean, largely because Turkey has threatened war whenever it tried to do so. There are believed to be big, unexplored reserves of oil and gas east of the mainland and south of Crete. With Israel firmly in its corner keeping Turkey at bay, Greece has a powerful motivation to finally declare its EEZ and fully develop those resources, taking advantage of the Israeli experience in extracting hydrocarbons from the same Mediterranean environment.
This mutually beneficial relationship is so compelling that it has survived the fall of the Papandreou government. The first official from the coalition unity government headed by Lucas Papademos to visit Israel was the Energy Minister. Giorgos Papakonstantinou, and he came eager to talk about Israeli gas and Greece. It’s worth noting that not long ago, Athens was the font of some of the most vehement hostility to Israel in all of Europe.
Pipelines from Israeli gas fields to Greece will pass through Cyprus, and here too, Israel has been busy polishing relations and facing down Turks. The formation that contains the Leviathan field extends into Cypriot waters, and Noble Energy is busily drilling there now. Ankara has insisted that Turkish-occupied North Cyprus must take a share of any gas from Greek Cypriot waters, and threatened to send its navy to block the drilling. But Israel maintained a strong naval presence nearby, and the US, EU, and Russia, none of whom recognize Turkish Cyprus, all affirmed the right of Greek Cypriots to develop their resources. After getting carried away with bellicose rhetoric, the Erdogan government found itself completely isolated. Drilling south of Cyprus has proceeded since late September without incident.
The administration of Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias has discussed a security alliance with Israel, and the Israeli air force has carried out exercises over Cypriot airspace. Cypriots in general are eagerly embracing closer ties with Israel and the prosperity coming their way with the development of gas fields, pipelines, and gas liquefaction plants.
The Arab Spring has turned into winter, with Syria a slaughterhouse, tourists in Egypt fleeing chaos and Salafists, and Islamists taking power everywhere, even in Tunisia. Meanwhile, the elements of a Jewish Spring are being quietly put into place – energy security, a new strategic position as an energy exporter, dramatically improved relations with Greece and Cyprus, the prospect of better relations with every country that will buy Israeli gas, and the satisfaction of seeing hostile countries punish themselves in their attempts to punish Israel.
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