Former Israeli Minister of Infrastructure Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has called for Israel to give priority to the neighbouring Arab countries with regards to natural gas exports, noting in particular the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Egypt, but only on the precondition that Israel be allowed to use the gas liquefaction plant at Dumyat in Egypt. He pointed out that this kind of agreement would also bolster the peace treaty between the two countries.
Ben-Eliezer, who intends to run for president in the elections next year, made his remarks in an interview published on Monday by the Israeli economic gazette Globes. He explained that he supports reaching a balance between conserving sufficient quantities of gas within Israel for domestic use over the next twenty years on the one hand, and exporting the remaining gas on the other. He thinks that the export of gas could open up unprecedented doors for Israel, possibly creating a completely new geopolitical reality.
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Speaking on the periphery of Israel's Business Conference in Tel Aviv, Ben-Eliezer said that when it comes to exporting gas, he recommends giving priority to Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Cyprus and Egypt. He added: "Egypt is also looking for gas and I would support such an economic agreement with it. This would bolster the peace treaty between us and reinforce the treaty with a significant economic foundation, provided that Israel is able, in exchange, to make use of the natural gas liquefaction plant at Dumyat."
In response to a question about the lessons learned from the previous agreement to export Egyptian gas to Israel, which was interrupted shortly after the 2011 Egyptian revolution, Ben-Eliezer said: "Our experience with the Egyptians was indeed bitter and harsh. We suffered a lot because the Salafists were bombing the pipeline on daily basis."
He added: "I don't recall a single week during which gas flowed to Israel in accordance with the deal. I used to call Omar Suleiman (the late head of Egyptian intelligence) to discuss with him what took place. Every day there was a new incident. Nevertheless, even if I knew in advance that would happen, I still would not have called off the deal."
Ben-Eliezer concluded his interview by expressing a desire to export gas to China, Japan, India and Turkey as well. He acknowledged that the Turks know the difference between the economic and the political aspects of their bilateral relations, and that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not yet inflicted any damage on the economic relations between Turkey and Israel.