Israel-Egypt-EU gas deal is another green light to occupation and rights abuses 

The platform of the Leviathan natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea is pictured from the Israeli coastal city of Caesarea (AFP)

Inès Abdel Razek

Middle East Eye  /  June 21, 2022

Rather than isolating states that violate individual rights and international law, Europe is enabling them to oppress with impunity.

The European Union has just signed a tripartite gas deal with Egypt and Israel that will increase the EU’s dependency on Israeli gas. Described by the EU Commission chief as a “historic agreement”, the deal proves that when it comes to respect for human rights and international law, the EU and its member states have no credibility. 

The agreement comes as the EU is seeking alternatives to Russian oil amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. Charles Michel, president of the European Council, says the embargo on Russian oil imports cuts “a huge source of financing for its war machine”

Instead, the EU is embracing a path that will make it more dependent on Israeli gas, despite Israel’s more than half-century military occupation and 74 years of settler-colonial dispossession of Palestinians, which has included ongoing and blatant violations of international law amounting to the crime of apartheid.

The gas deal follows the implementation of the Abraham Accords, a US-brokered push to normalize relations between Israel and Arab states. The deal will also make the EU more dependent on Egypt, a dictatorial regime with approximately 60,000 political prisoners and widespread human rights abuses that the EU has also normalized

Earlier this year, the EU committed 657 million euros ($688m) towards the EuroAsia Interconnector, an undersea line linking the power grids of Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Europe.

Settler-colonial project

For decades, Israel has been building its state and fuelling its settler-colonial project through land expropriation and the pillaging of Palestinian natural resources, including water, oil and gas, stone and dead sea minerals in the occupied territories. The gas set to be exported to Europe is exploited off the coast of Gaza, where for 15 years Israel has maintained a brutal blockade on two million Palestinians and regularly bombs them.

Israel has also prevented Palestinians from exploiting natural gas reserves in the Gaza Marine field, ensuring that the Palestinian population remains subservient to Israel’s will. 

Indeed, Israel is using the energy sector as leverage to further normalize its apartheid and settler-colonial regime, shamelessly building diplomacy while committing crimes against the Palestinian population. Presenting itself as a beacon of military and cyber technologies, Israel experiments and tests these technologies on the Palestinians under its control. 

Europe’s collaboration with Israel in the energy sector, alongside high-level visits to Israel by European and US leaders, gives a green light to the current government to continue ramping up its campaign of oppression, with no international accountability. Over the past year, Israeli forces have killed hundreds of Palestinians, demolished hundreds of homes, continued the state’s ethnic-cleansing campaigns, and continued persecuting human rights activists.

Toothless statements

Yet, rather than sanctioning and isolating Israel, the international community rewards it for its war crimes through deals and diplomacy, reinforcing the state’s culture of impunity. At best, European governments continue to issue toothless statements using exhausted talking points disconnected from the realities on the ground, such as the “need for a two-state solution”

At the same time, EU institutions have been expending political energies on harassing Palestinians over school textbooks and surrendering to Israel’s campaign against Palestinian civil society groups

To make matters worse, the Palestinian leadership has remained silent on the Israel-Egypt-EU gas deal, which was announced just two days after the EU released around $200m in long-delayed funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA). This confirms yet again that the PA has accepted its own subjugation under colonial rule and the further dispossession of Palestinians to ensure its own political survival.

This further contributes to the erasure of the Palestinian people from any geopolitical calculations, making the prospect of Palestinian liberation and self-determination even more remote. 

The recent gas deal represents another stain on the EU’s founding values. Instead of opposing neo-authoritarian states with ethno-nationalist agendas, and implementing a values-based foreign policy backed by strong multilateralism, Europe is simply choosing its own camps of colonizers and human rights abusers.

Inès Abdel Razek is the advocacy director for the Palestinian Institute for Public Diplomacy, an independent Palestinian organisation focusing on international mobilisation and digital campaigning for justice, freedom and equality; she is also a policy member at Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network