FES Southern Perspective: Israel’s Strategic Interests in the Eastern Mediterranean
The Eastern Mediterranean emerged in the last decade as a new focus of Israeli strategic interests. Traditionally, the region was an afterthought in Israeli thinking. It posed no major threat, nor did it hold a significant promise. However, This state of affairs saw a dramatic shift that accelerated in the last decade.
The discovery of substantial gas depots in Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Eastern Mediterranean and Israel’s newly acquired reliance on them for its energy needs turned Israeli attention West.
Part of this turn to the sea includes a quasi-alliance with Greece and Cyprus and involvement in a nascent regional organization, the Cairo-based EastMed Gas Forum, founded by the Hellenic states, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority and grew later to include France. In part, with Israel’s encouragement, the US offers support, of sorts, to both the Israeli-Hellenic alliance and the Gas Forum, which it joined as an observer in March 2021.
The EU is a natural ally; it extended support to the forum and entered it as an observer. With growing tensions between the Hellenic states and Turkey, the forum and the Israeli-Hellenic alliance may assume a more significant role. At a minimum, they offer European actors another framework to stabilize and possibly even benefit from the region.
Dr. Ehud Eiran