Netanyahu heading to Greece Thursday to sign game-changing Mediterranean pipeline deal

The plan is that by 2025, natural gas will be flowing from Israel to Europe, supplying 10 percent of its energy needs.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to Athens Thursday to sign a three-way agreement between Israel, Greece and Cyprus to build a pipeline that will supply Europe with some 10 percent of its energy needs from the Leviathan natural gas field off the Haifa coast.

After several meetings between the countries’ leaders over the past two years, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Benjamin Netanyahu and Nicos Anastasiades, the president of Cyprus, will commit to building the 2,000-kilometer-long, so-called EastMed pipeline in the next five years.

It would be the longest and deepest underwater gas pipeline in the world and cost around $8 billion to construct. According to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, it will also bring Europe and Israel closer than ever before.

“For decades, we have complained about the Arab influence in Europe due to oil and gas,” Steinitz said to Israeli media. “The export of gas to Europe will moderate this influence to a certain extent and be a counterweight to Arab power.”

The deal will also send a dual message, one to Russia and the other to Turkey.

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Russia currently supplies Europe with a quarter of its gas, thereby giving it an oversized influence over the continent. President Vladimir Putin demonstrated this in 2015 when he temporarily cut the energy supply by 50 percent, having been angered over Europe’s support for Ukraine in the land dispute between the two countries.

Cutting that dependence will reduce Moscow’s influence, an important security consideration for the E.U.

Threatening the East-Med pipeline is Turkey’s recent agreement with the internationally recognized but embattled government of Libya. The deal redrew the maritime borders between the two countries.

Ankara and Tripoli extended an imaginary line that runs between their countries in the Mediterranean Sea, ignoring  Cyprus and Greece as it goes by the Greek island of Crete. Athens has had a strained relationship with Turkey ever since the latter invaded Cyprus in 1974 and has controlled the northern third of the country.

Both countries claim oil and gas reserves off their coasts, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a move to lay claim to the undersea riches, recently ordered drilling operations there.

Israel’s Leviathan gas field is set to go online early next year. It will make Israel a major energy player in world markets for the first time in its history. Multibillion-dollar export deals have already been signed with Egypt and Jordan.