Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 17:53 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 17:53 | SYDNEY

Lebanon-Israel: Drill seekers


Rodger Shanahan


29 June 2010 09:02

One doesn't normally associate resource wars with the Levant (apart from concerns about water supplies). But tensions are emerging over something normally associated with the Persian Gulf: several large offshore gas fields have been discovered that promise significant economic advantage for Israel. Naturally, the gas fields' proximity to Lebanon has meant that Beirut has expressed concerns over exploitation of what it claims could be a shared resource.

Part of Lebanon's problem is that it has yet to pass its own oil and gas exploration bill, so sits in learned helplessness as its southern neighbor seeks to exploit its economic resources. Non-specific claims from some Lebanese politicians that these fields encroach onto Lebanese territory have been met with statements from Israeli Infrastructure minister Uzi Landau that Israel would use force to protect those fields if necessary.

The best outcome would be for Israel's apparent success to galvanise Lebanon's own politicians to open the way for exploratory drilling that, according to Norwegian-conducted seismic surveys, may yield practical results.

Who knows? A Lebanese government that used its resource income to pay down national debt and improve infrastructure and services may even blunt the electoral appeal of Hizbullah's social services. And an economically booming Lebanon may also enhance Israel's security by massively raising the domestic political cost to Hizbullah of any military misadventure on its part that brought Israeli retribution.

But even if the Lebanese political system is incapable of equitably distributing any economic bonus, at least it will be a pleasant change for eastern Mediterranean countries to negotiate boundaries to share economic largesse rather than as a means of fulfilling UN Security Council resolutions.

Photo by Flickr user sidewalk flying, used under a Creative Commons license.