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Spain Joins Israel's Gas Alliance

Spain and Israel Sign a $13 Billion Infrastructures Agreement

 

 

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On December 23, 2012, an odd image focused my attention on the Spanish TV. Ana Pastor, Spanish Minister of Public Works and Transport was smiling next to Silvan Shalom, Israel's Vice Prime Minister for Regional Development. Seconds later she was smiling next to Yisrael Katz, Israel's Minister of Transport, National Infrastructure and Road Safety. Then she was signing a piece of paper with the latter. These events happened in Israel; the Port of Ashdod was easily recognizable in the background of the first.

The oddity is related to the fact that both countries were never close friends; they established diplomatic relations only in 1986. Spain has a long and impressive history of cooperation with the Arab World. Only in 2000, Spain lifted its veto on Israel's admission to the United Nations' Western European Group. Until then, Israel's membership was renewed yearly. Years before, Israel had been banned from the UN's Asian Group due to the opposition of Muslim countries. In Israel, Spain is considered by many to be an anti-Semitic country, especially because Jews were expelled from it in the late-fifteenth century. Suddenly, they became best friends.

Ana María Pastor Julián

Ana María Pastor Julián
Heretics or Daughters of Israel?: The Crypto-Jewish Women of Castile

Yisrael

Yisrael Katz
Jews of Spain

Surprising Agreement

Showing a striking peculiarity of the Spanish language, the agitated anchor of the Spanish TV was firing the narrative faster than the speed of light. The ministers have signed an agreement allowing Spain to participate in infrastructure bids worth at least $13 billion dollars, to be issued by the State of Israel during 2013. This places Spanish corporations next to already approved French and Chinese ones. The business opportunities are related to the expansion of ports, a metro in Tel Aviv, electrification of railroad lines, new highways, and tunnels; all of them strategic topics that have been featured by this website in the last year. However, all these are dwarfed by the main project in the package, a $4 billion high-speed railway between the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. The signature event was the result of a previous visit, of Yisrael Katz to Spain in May. This project explains the Israeli efforts to include Spain in the bids, and Spanish willingness to cooperate with a country that it vetoed until the year 2000. Financial interests eradicated cultural perceptions.

Trapped between France and China

France can provide better expertise in high-speed railways. China can offer better prices. Why did Israel run to Spain? Spain suffers from an energy deficit; it is one of the largest importers of natural gas in Europe. In contrast, following the massive gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean in recent years, Israel enjoys a generous surplus. The fact that Israel's Vice Prime Minister participated in the reported meetings shows that they contained more than the signature of infrastructure agreements. Spain can provide European expertise while compromising on the price, with the understanding that it will enjoy a supply of Israeli gas. Israel's Gas Alliance has a new member.

Natural Gas Transmission | Israel, 2012

Natural Gas Transmission | Israel, 2012

 

Trans-Israel Pipeline

Trans-Israel Pipeline

The World's Oddest Alliance

Between 1967 and the overthrow of the Iranian Shah, the Trans-Israel pipeline, running between Eilat and Ashkelon, was used to transport crude oil from Iran to Europe. Since 2003, Russia uses it to supply Asian markets. Tankers from Novorossiysk deliver their oil in Ashkelon and then the oil is reloaded onto tankers in Eilat for shipment to Asia. This route is shorter than the traditional one around Africa and cheaper than via the Suez Canal. The planned high-speed railway will run 350km between Beersheba, and the port of Eilat, completing the railway access between the Mediterranean and Red Sea ports of Israel. In 2005, the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline connecting Azerbaijan to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea was inaugurated. The pipeline can be used for transshipment of Azerbaijani oil via the Trans-Israel pipeline. The oil is then transported to Eastern Asia, similarly to what is now being done by the Russians. Israel desperately needs Azerbaijani oil and Azerbaijan depends on Israel for expanding its oil markets. Despite historical and cultural links, Iran cannot help Azerbaijan in this, mainly due to the ongoing Western sanctions on Iranian oil operations (see Azerbaijan-Israel: A Shia—Jewish Alliance). Israel's high-speed railway is not intended for the transportation of tourists to its Red Sea resort town—Eilat—but for the transport of industrial products and for backing the oil and gas transmission networks.

From the beginning of 2012, following the massive discovery of natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin and the break-up of the Turkey-Israel alliance as a result of the Freedom Flotilla Affair, two loose alliances between Turkey-Lebanon-Northern Cyprus-Iran, and Israel-Cyprus were created, both claiming ownership of the gas fields. Adding Azerbaijan to its weak front, allowed Israel to open a second frontline against Iran, which is already blaming Israel for using Azerbaijan as an entry point for its agents into Iranian territory. Later that year, energy-thirsty Greece joined Israel's Gas Alliance. The new agreement signed in the last days of 2012, added Spain to this alliance, unofficially consolidating NATO's support of the disputed Israeli claims on ownership of the fields.

Supporting this assessment were Minister Ana Pastor's unprecedented words during her visit to Ashdod, "This accord is a milestone in the relations between Israel and Spain and opens the doors for our firms and our experts to be able to cooperate and participate in this transformation that is under way in Israel in the infrastructure area."

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