This article describes how Israel abandoned its climate policy through the prism of the country’s evolving energy profile, most importantly the 2009 discovery of huge natural gas reserves in Israel’s Mediterranean exclusive zone. The article outlines five phases of Israeli political engagement with climate change from 1992 until 2013 when the National GHG Emissions Reduction Plan was defunded. Israel was motivated to develop its climate policy by international norms: OECD membership and the 2009 UN Summit in Copenhagen. Although the eventual Plan may not have significantly reduced Israel’s emissions, it contained immediate cost-effective, energy efficiency measures. Despite rhetorical support for renewable energy, in practice, most Israeli leaders consistently perceive ensuring supply of fossil fuels as the best means to achieve energy security. The gas finds thus effectively ended a potentially significant switch towards renewable energy production. The development of commercially competitive Israeli renewable energy technology may change this prevailing economic calculus alongside renewed international and domestic leadership and a resolution of the region’s conflicts. Although Israel’s political circumstances are idiosyncratic, the dynamics shaping its climate policy reflect wider trends such as competing economic priorities and failure to consider long term energy security.
There have been important changes in the politics of the eastern Mediterranean since the discovery of energy resources and the disintegration of Turkish-Israeli relations. Israel upgraded its relationship with Greece and Cyprus after its ties with Turkey deteriorated. Since shortly after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, the widening divergence in interests between Turkey and Israel have provided the geopolitical impetus for the development of a rapprochement between Greece and Israel. While political, military, and economic cooperation, in particular, between Israel and Greece have significantly developed, the relations have also blossomed over mutual concern about the energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. This essay examines the burgeoning relationship between Israel and Greece since 2010 and considers whether this relationship constitutes an important strategic alliance in the eastern Mediterranean.
The discovery of oil and natural gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean Sea has the potential to exacerbate conflicts in the area. There are many possible ways to prevent this from happening, but each requires the states of the region to cooperate, which is unlikely for numerous reasons. This article reviews the various conflicts that have emerged or are emerging over this issue and suggests possible solutions.