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Friday, December 26, 2014

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Israel: On brink of energy self-sufficiency?

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Lawrence Solomon

TORONTO — Israel could well become a net exporter of oil and gas in the near future, a forum on the Middle East was told last week.

The claim was made by an environmentalist and a former Canadian diplomat at a conference on “Canada and the New Middle East.”


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The daylong event at the Hyatt Regency Hotel was hosted by Advocates for Civil Liberties and The Atlantic Council of Canada.

Lawrence Solomon, founder and managing director of Energy Probe Research Foundation, said Israel has the third-largest reserves of oil shale in the world and intends to exploit them with the assistance of foreign investors.

Mike Ward, a retired diplomat whose last posting was in Istanbul, said immense oil and gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean Sea stand to make Israel self-sufficient in energy.

Claiming Israel is sitting on oil shale fields that could yield from 250 billion to 500 billion barrels, Solomon said he expects Israeli exports to begin flowing within about a decade.

In his estimation, the price of each barrel would be about $40, far less than the present cost of gasoline.

Saying high-profile investors, including the Rothschilds, are involved in the quest to extract energy from Israel’s oil shale reserves, Solomon noted Israel is a leader in the development of oil shale technology.

Ward observed oil and gas deposits in Israeli territorial waters are of such a magnitude that Israel cannot only become self-sufficient but a net exporter of energy.

Solomon said the United States is poised to overtake Russia as the world’s number 1 producer of oil and gas.

He also warned the Arab Spring – the series of revolts that have broken out in the Arab world since the end of 2010 – has empowered Islamists.

“The Arab Spring has been an unmitigated disaster,” he asserted in a blunt assessment.

Ward, who served as a senior trade commissioner in countries ranging from Turkey to Saudi Arabia, said many Canadian companies are seeking a presence in the Middle East. The primary focus of Canadian investors in the region today is Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar, he said.

He added Canada is currently exploring the possibility of signing free trade agreements with Morocco and Turkey, the latter of which he described as one of the most western-oriented and stable countries in the Middle East.

Andrew Mahut, a representative of U.S. Steel Canada, said Canada – a major oil exporter – could benefit should Iran disrupt or stop oil tanker traffic in the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 per cent of the world’s oil supplies pass.

Raymond Boisvert, assistant director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), disclosed the Middle East has been the centrepiece of its work since the Arab terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a threat to Canada and its allies, he declared.

Without specifically mentioning Canadian Muslims, Boisovert said CSIS is concerned by the threat of homegrown terrorism and by the influence of the “Al Qaeda narrative” on Canadian citizens.

Boisvert warned that foreign governments will continue to “target” new immigrants in Canada. Despite the death of Al Qaeda’s spiritual leader, Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda ideology is still very much alive, he said.

Iran continues to demonstrate “a clear intent” to develop nuclear weapons, he said, adding Iran’s support of terrorism remains a concern.

Doug Best, an RCMP superintendent and head of its national security section, called terrorism “a critical threat to Canada,” but he did not elaborate.

He said the RCMP’s community outreach program has been successful in foiling terrorist plots. “We don’t target communities,” he said. ”We target criminal activities.”

In an allusion to recent events in Toulouse, France, in which a French Muslim of Algerian origin killed seven Jewish citizens and French soldiers, Best said the RCMP maintains an “appropriate” level of vigilance so that such outrages will not be committed in Canada.

As he put it, “We’re flexible and can respond to a threat as it presents itself.”

John Thompson, an international security expert affiliated with the Mackenzie Institute in Canada, suggested it is probably too late to destroy Iran’s nuclear sites in conventional air attacks. He said the Muslim Brotherhood may attain power in Syria should the besieged regime of President Bashar Assad fall. “We don’t know what Syria will become. Another Pakistan?”

Pakistan is both an ally and a foe in the battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan, he said.

In a bleak warning, he said the status of Christian Copts in Egypt may decline precipitously should the situation there deteriorate.

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