Israel’s Gas Cannot be Protected
By: Yahya Dbouk
Published Monday, July 30, 2012
The reserves of oil and gas off the coast of occupied Palestine are estimated to be worth billions of dollars and are, therefore, a strategic asset for Israel.
Tel Aviv regards its oil and gas with both optimism and anxiety, because their reserves are under threat.
This strategic asset is also a burden because, from a security point of view, it is an unprecedented challenge. The oil and gas fields would be a relatively easy target in any future confrontation between Israel and its enemies.
For Israel, this issue goes beyond these facilities being easy targets for its enemies in wartime, especially if Israel carries out its threats against Lebanon.
The real challenge is that they may be targeted now, when there is no war. Israel is worried that its enemies could strike at these facilities at any moment.
This compels it to try to limit the negative implications of this possibility.
It has to make investors, international insurance companies, and future importers understand that it can actually deal with the threats, that is, absorb, tackle, and neutralize them.
This is how we must interpret Israeli spin in describing the threat, because talk of its defensive ability and “future plans” to protect and confront the various scenarios of attack are beyond reason.
Every few months, the Israeli media reports new protection plans and combat methods.
For example: assigning protection to the Israeli air force, which has been using drones as part of an operational plan to provide permanent protection for the excavation areas.
They have also revealed very advanced combat methods, such as unmanned boats carrying radars and Barak interceptor rockets, able to intercept missiles fired at the facilities (this same rocket was on the Saar 5 ship struck by Hezbollah at the beginning of the 2006 war).
Apparently, there will also be a change, and protection will ultimately be in the hands of the Israeli navy, which, according to Tel Aviv, has started drawing up the necessary plans to protect the areas.
However, Israel’s latest assurances suggest that the protection plans and systems are not effective.
Any interceptor system the Israeli army possesses, and the many plans being discussed in the media, will not be enough to protect these facilities.
This is because of the advanced nature of Hezbollah’s rockets, in addition to the fact that the targets are not on Israeli soil and are spread over a sea area of 44,000 square kilometers – double the size of occupied Palestine.
A high-ranking officer in the Israeli navy recently told AFP that the protection plan for the gas platforms, known as Shield, has been approved by the Israeli army, which asked for it to be implemented.
He suggested that the plans circulating in the media are for public consumption and for the purposes of deterrence, nothing more.
The officer indicated that “the navy is not yet ready to undertake this task, because our fleet was initially designed for sea battles. We have to form a new force as well as put in place an operational plan to respond to all possible threats.”
In a July 27 report published on the Hebrew online site Walla – a mainstream Israeli news website – military analyst Yossi Melman quoted Israeli security sources as saying that “Hezbollah’s possession of M600 missiles in Lebanon is far more worrying than them having Scud missiles.”
He indicated that there are hundreds of these missiles in Lebanon and that they can reach their targets with great precision.
One of these missiles would be enough to destroy a floating oil platform, causing severe damage. He warned that Hezbollah now also has Russian-made Yakhont missiles that recently arrived in Syria.
Melman also quoted “an independent Israeli security expert” as saying that, in reality, there is no solution for protecting the oil and gas facilities.
In an emergency – particularly during a war – drilling holes would need to be closed and workers evacuated, he said. If they are hit by missiles, at least there will not be loss of life.
Yahya Dbouk is Israeli Affairs Columnist at Al-Akhbar.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.