Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The Election - A Criminals Mandate?

If you still manage somehow to maintain an interest in BBC News (which I haven't), you will have certainly been subjected to perpetual over-the-top coverage of the 2015 election. I would imagine by now you would have attained some form of numbness of which the best cure would be to go into BBC News detox. 

I would also imagine that 'normal' people will not have paid all that much attention to the build up - far less take an interest in the TV 'debates'. Again I haven't. The thought of listening to fabricated nonsense, which some people politely describe as rhetoric and which those who prefer to get straight to point would describe as bullshit, is a Non sequitur.

Lets get to the nitty gritty here. Politics today doesn't have much going for it - despite lurid waxing from the likes of Nick Robinson, the Tories favourite TV reporter. I'll suss out here what's wrong with the political parties and why they're nothing more than just a corporate cabal of toothless puppets.

Up the Revolution
In a northern backwater of the UK, in a land of mountains, lochs, kilts, fish and chips, Rabbie Burns and a haggis to boot, a quiet revolution has been brewing - in much the same way a fine malt whisky is brought to maturity.

1999 was a fine year. The end of the world was nigh. The millennium bug was about to devastate the digital world and every computer connected to it. And the Scottish Parliament met for the first time since Scotland became part of the Union with England in 1707.

It seemed that the new millennium would herald a new Scotland. Nobody at the time of course could have guessed how true that would become. 

What has happened in Scotland over the past 15 years has been a model of democracy in a world where democratic accountability to those who are supposed to be accountable, has been rapidly receding.  

Those who attended that first Parliament meeting would never have envisioned that the Scottish National Party (SNP) would become a majority party - far less hold a referendum that would send ripples through Scotland and the UK and beyond.

The great irony here is that the devolution process was supposed to make it difficult for the SNP to attain a majority. But a majority they did get and in the process we would see an unparalleled shift in political momentum, which led to the Referendum.

The significance of this process can't be understated. UK politics was about to be upset in a way not seen since the Labour party came to prominence in the 1920's. 

The result of this shift would bring to the surface the rotten core of the British Establishment. The Referendum exposed hidden undercurrents that linked media, politics and just about anything else you can think of.

Since then, membership of the SNP has increased markedly. But its not just the SNP. The Greens have also seen a massive surge in popularity, north and south of the border. And regions all over the UK are seeking greater autonomy from Westminster.

But the reverberations have gone beyond the UK. In the run up to the Referendum, the now elected Greek Syriza Party was behind the Scottish Independence campaign. 

The support of the Catalan Independence campaign in Spain behind Scotland has been well documented.  

During the Referendum itself, there was a considerable global media presence. The historic vote was being scrutinised by a global audience  

Now with the UK general election almost upon us, it would appear the momentum from the Referendum has persisted. With the SNP forecast to gain a majority of seats, Labour have became marginalised. 

During the referendum, Labour shot itself in the foot with its brazen anti democratic approach. This was exemplified by the current leader of Scottish Labour Jim Murphy, who's contentious campaign during the referendum helped to demonize Labour. 

His rather dubious past is covered in this blog. Everything you wanted to know about his Blairite past. His support for the Iraq war and his former role as Friends of Israel. No wonder then with all this coming out into the open, that Murphy is being seen by many as Scottish Labour's death wish.

The forecast as it stands is for SNP to make massive gains and for Labour to follow the fate of the Tories. 

But there's more to this than Scottish Labour's 'enigmatic' front man. What the Referendum debate exposed was the corrupt colonial and imperialistic heart of the British establishment. Jim Murphy is regarded as the personification of this. And with the corporate press spreading lies and misinformation, one of the resounding policies of the SNP to let 16 - 18 year olds vote - the cyberspace generation - resulted in the mainstream media being bypassed. 

Herein lies the essence of this revolution. If you are under 40, chances are you will be more inclined to get your news from the internet. But there is of course other alternative media sources. One in particular that is worth mentioning is Russia Today.

Not surprisingly RT is denigrated as the Kremlin’s propaganda channel by western observers. If that's the case, then its keeping very good company. 

The fact is, RT is one of the few channels that actually covers what would be regarded as news. Anyone who doubts this can watch for themselves. There is a great range of programming that really does challenge the mainstream.

Al Jazeera is another alternative that can challenge the mainstream to a certain extent.

It is these alternatives that is creating a paradigm shift in the way people perceive the world. And this is taking shape in the UK. Politicians - when it comes down to it - are pretty ignorant when it comes to science and technology. It just isn't compatible with the ideological mind set, which by its very nature is essentially irrational.

The result of all this is an increasing mistrust of the political establishment, which recently hit an all time low. And there's no shortage of examples which demonstrate why this perception has emerged. 

At this juncture I'll examine in more detail just why politicians can't be trusted and why most are quite simply not qualified to do the job.

When it comes to high level politics - unlike other professions - its not so much a case of how qualified you are or your ability to do the job, its who you know. Lets face it, a monkey could put itself up for election provided it had the deposit to put down! In the case of David Cameron, he has the family connections, with no shortage of business links. He is descended from royalty in the shape of King William IV. 

His Great Great Grandfather was the former head of HSBC back in late 19th Century. Suffice to say, the guy is well connected.

Cameron of course inherited a country that had been in the hands of 'New Labour' since Tony Blair came to power in 1997. Blair was regarded as a breath of fresh air at the time. 

But it wasn't long before the air turned stale. UK involvement in the Iraq war and its association with one of the most corrupt US administrations, with George Bush at the helm, would taint Blair. 

The emerging farce of weapons of mass destruction that drove the war, lifted the lid on the UK's dubious foreign policy.

One of the standing jokes that preceded David Cameron’s election campaign was the promise that he would lead the 'greenest Government ever': 'Flanked by Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne who will run the department [DECC], Cameron reassured civil servants that the environment was a top priority for him. "There is a fourth minister in this department who cares passionately about this agenda and that is me, the prime minister, right. I mean that from the bottom of my heart." '

And just to emphasis the point, he visited Norway in 2006 order to play the role of Tory eco-warrior. His catch phrase during the campaign was 'vote blue to go green'. 

In Government however, the reality was very different. Spearheaded by loony environment minister Owen Paterson, the Tories quickly gained an anti environment reputation. Eventually Paterson was kicked out as he had simply became an embarrassment to the Government with his climate denial approach.

But the damage had already been done. Driven by ideological obsession, the Government had embarked on a pro fracking odyssey. The UK would be fracked inside out at any cost and nothing would stand the way of this 'progress'.

GM crops was another area the Government would quietly promote, driven by an enthusiastic Owen Paterson.  

All in all Government policy would hinder any progress on environmental issues. The greenest Government ever was beginning to wither into a pile of brown litter. 

But it wasn't just environmental issues that the Government was reneging on. Campaign group 38 Degrees has been hounding the Government on various issues. 

NHS England has been subjected to a cynical privatisation effort, driven by a pathological obsession with privatising anything in the public domain. Again, completely driven by blind ideology. Doesn't matter whether the results are successful or not, privatisation is sacred territory. Anything less would be tantamount to blasphemy.  

In response, senior medical experts drafted an open letter that was highly critical of the Governments track record on the NHS.

What's cynical about the whole process is that private firms are being awarded contracts that are more expensive than similar NHS proposals and in many cases the whole tendering process is shrouded in secrecy. It turns out though that the companies involved have close ties with the Government. It would appear that a revolving door has been installed in the NHS...           

Another public sector with links to the NHS is the Department for Health & Social Security (DHS). These days there's not much Social Security, or health either. The reputation of health assessment company ATOS is in shreds. The system is so bad that terminally ill cancer patients are being told they are fit for work by the DWP. And to add insult to injury, people are routinely sanctioned by Job Centres and left to rot.

Underlining these scandals is the Governments austerity programs, which also includes the highly divisive bedroom tax (which may be abolished).   

Austerity is another name for daylight robbery. It's when the Government steals peoples savings and finds ways to exploit the most vulnerable in society. Its a trickle up policy. People are duped into thinking that it will lead into a spectacular economic recovery. But in fact all it results in is increased inequality with the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer.

With interest rates at an all time low, the mechanism comes into play, e.g. interest stands at 0.5%. Inflation is 3%. The result is a negative interest of 2.5%. 

This article from the Guardian debunks the whole austerity myth. I won't elaborate on the details too much. But essentially the austerity debate was based on poor economics and bad accounting and a particular ideological view of the world. The attitude was that the masses were ignorant of the big decisions and the complexities behind them.

With big business 'ruling the roost' it was time for Joe Bloggs to tighten his belt and for the banksters to uncork the champagne. Or as the article puts it 'Conservatives like to use the alleged dangers of debt and deficits as clubs with which to beat the welfare state and justify cuts in benefits'. 

Quite simply: 'By about two years ago, then, the entire edifice of austerian economics had crumbled. Events had utterly failed to play out as the austerians predicted, while the academic research that allegedly supported the doctrine had withered under scrutiny. Hardly anyone has admitted being wrong – hardly anyone ever does, on any subject – but quite a few prominent austerians now deny having said what they did, in fact, say. The doctrine that ruled the world in 2010 has more or less vanished from the scene - except in Britain'.

The article concludes with this observation: 'Cameron is campaigning largely on a spurious claim to have “rescued” the British economy – and promising, if he stays in power, to continue making substantial cuts in the years ahead. Labour, sad to say, are echoing that position. So both major parties are in effect promising a new round of austerity that might well hold back a recovery that has, so far, come nowhere near to making up the ground lost during the recession and the initial phase of austerity.

For whatever the politics, the economics of austerity are no different in Britain from what they are in the rest of the advanced world. Harsh austerity in depressed economies isn’t necessary, and does major damage when it is imposed. That was true of Britain five years ago – and it’s still true today'.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies goes into more detail about how the main parties will deal with the economic situation after the election. The general conclusion seems to be that there isn't a great deal of detail from the parties in the run up to the election. But essentially the message is more of the same. 

This brings us round to the issue of tax avoidance and the billions that could be recouped from big business. The Tax Justice Network has outlined briefly the main parties position on tax avoidance.

However what the politicians say and what they do is an entirely different matter, as 38 Degrees revealed. The 2015 Finance Bill was supposed to tackle the issue, but basically it won't. And given the political leverage of big business, I would be surprised if any of the main parties do anything substantial on the issue of tax avoidance. 38 Degrees has produced a video which explains the issue well.

Finally, the issue of UK foreign policy. This invarably taps into defence issues. 

Given the discussion on austerity above, the fact that the Government doesn't have a problem in coughing up £100 billion on upgrading the Trident missile defence system, is seen by many as an outrage. I outlined the situation on Trident near the bottom of this article.   

In short, the mentality that Britannia still rules the waves seems to be alive and well in Westminster. Britain still has a colonial presence of sorts in the world, as it hovers in the shadow of the US. Our best friends are repressive regimes such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. 

My series of blog articles on Israel goes into considerable detail of the complicity of the UK and the US with the Apartheid state. 

The recent demise Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah attracted lavish praise from western leaders in a display of hypocrisy over human rights abuses from the regime. The King even had his own daughters locked up

This pretty much sums up the situation. Whether at home or abroad, Westminster’s brand of politics isn't something to cheer about. Hardly surprising then with everything that has been going on that the public - especially in Scotland - are sick and tired of dealing with an institution that effectively sits above the law.

If the SNP clears the board in the forthcoming election, it will be like an exorcism, with another shower of demons cast asunder. How things pan out south of the border remains to be seen. 

The Great Stink of 1858 is perhaps a rather persuasive metaphor of the current political entity that Governs the UK. This summary from the Guardian puts things into perspective: 'The temper tantrums are beginning. No one, Labour or Tory, seems to be able to accept that people in Scotland will vote for the party they want to represent them, and they continue to portray democracy in action as an actual threat to democracy. Tories and Lib Dems are preparing to challenge a Labour-SNP alliance as unconstitutional. That will be chaos. By claiming such a state of affairs to be illegitimate they are pushing Scotland to vote yes in any future referendum.

This Tory panic, though, is real. The two parties are broken. The re-emergence of Major reminds us that it is 23 years since the Conservatives got a majority and they may never do again. We will see a terrible scurrying about behind closed doors after this election, further locking out the voters. And the man who was prime minister just because he could be will have to show some passion beyond disdain for democracy. By then, though, it may be too late to activate the reluctant Cameron, who now appears little more than a political spambot'.

So where does that leave Cameron? Well, I'll leave you with this comment from the Onion prior to the referendum!

LONDON—In an emotional public address this morning ahead of Thursday’s national referendum in Scotland, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron pleaded with the Scottish people to stay and vowed that he would take his own life if the territory votes in favour of independence. “Scotland, the second you leave I will kill myself—I swear I’ll do it,” said a visibly dishevelled Cameron, who spoke with a shaking voice and appeared at several points during the speech as if he was on the verge of breaking down in tears. “How can I go on living if you’re gone? If you vote yes to independence, that’s it—you can say goodbye to me right now, because I’ll be dead the next time you see me. Just look at what you’re doing to me!” At press time, Cameron was seen sobbing softly and climbing up the stairs to the top of Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower.  

Update - 13.30 hours - election day
Here's a link to an excellent article from George Monbiot on the election.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Mediterranean Gas - Avoiding the Spotlight 6

In the Eastern Mediterranean, the discovery of substantial reserves of natural gas in an area known as the Levantine Basin (map below), could propel Israel to the top of the league of major Middle Eastern energy producers.
On March 30, 2013 Israel began production in the Tamar field: “We are talking about billions of dollars coming to the state from tax revenues from Tamar gas over a 20-year period,” Gilad Alper, a senior analyst at Excellence Nessuah Brokerage Ltd. in Tel Aviv, said in a phone interview. “It will also reduce energy costs as we will replace expensive imports with a cheap domestic supply of natural gas. The start of the flow is a big positive for the economy.”

The Tamar and Dalit fields could supply Israel with gas for two decades. The larger Leviathan field is estimated to hold 18 trillion cubic feet of gas, Noble said in a statement March 6.

The three fields provide Israel with reserves more than 14 times larger than Germany’s total proven gas reserves, which the BP Statistical Review of World Energy published in June 2012 lists at 2.2 trillion cubic feet. Russia holds the biggest gas reserves, followed by Iran, according to BP Plc.

The flow from Tamar is expected to contribute about 1 percent to Israel’s gross domestic product, the Bank of Israel said in a March 24 report, forecasting that the economy will grow 3.8 percent in 2013, including the contribution from gas.

The Bank of Israel also said the flow from the Tamar field will improve the nation’s current-account balance by as much as $3 billion this year. For every $1 billion improvement in the balance, the exchange rate should appreciate about 1 percent, the bank has estimated.

In February, Russia’s OAO Gazprom, the world’s biggest natural gas producer, signed an agreement for the exclusive rights to export liquefied natural gas produced from the Tamar floating LNG plant. Noble Energy forecast Israeli demand for gas to grow at a compounded rate of 15 percent in 2012-2017. The Leviathan field is expected to supply the domestic markets in 2016, Noble said in December.

We pick up the story in 1999, when Israel - apparently - approached the British Gas Group (BG) to conduct exploration in the region. However BG pulled out in 2005, selling its stake for $1! US based Noble Energy moved in as the primary player.

Why did BG pull out of the deal? The simple answer is Palestine. An article from TomDispatch covers the background to the story. 

Following the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) as part of the Oslo Peace Accords, the PA would also be responsible for territorial waters off the coast of Gaza. This would have an important bearing on a Palestinian claim to offshore natural gas.

Indeed in 1999, it was actually the PA that established the deal with BG. What followed was some familiar wheeling and dealing and skulduggery from Israel. TomDispatch summarises what happened: BG promised to finance and manage their development, bear all the costs, and operate the resulting facilities in exchange for 90% of the revenues, an exploitative but typical "profit-sharing" agreement. With an already functioning natural gas industry, Egypt agreed to be the on-shore hub and transit point for the gas. The Palestinians were to receive 10% of the revenues (estimated at about a billion dollars in total) and were guaranteed access to enough gas to meet their needs.

Had this process moved a little faster, the contract might have been implemented as written. In 2000, however, with a rapidly expanding economy, meager fossil fuels, and terrible relations with its oil-rich neighbors, Israel found itself facing a chronic energy shortage. Instead of attempting to answer its problem with an aggressive but feasible effort to develop renewable sources of energy, Prime Minister Ehud Barak initiated the era of Eastern Mediterranean fossil fuel conflicts. He brought Israel's naval control of Gazan coastal waters to bear and nixed the deal with BG. Instead, he demanded that Israel, not Egypt, receive the Gaza gas and that it also control all the revenues destined for the Palestinians -- to prevent the money from being used to "fund terror."

Its clear that the Israelis were framing the whole issue as a security threat, reinforced by the Hamas election victory in 2006. NSNBC International expands the story: The issue of sovereignty over Gaza’s gas fields is crucial. From a legal standpoint, the gas reserves belong to Palestine.
The death of Yasser Arafat, the election of the Hamas government and the ruin of the Palestinian Authority have enabled Israel to establish de facto control over Gaza’s offshore gas reserves.

British Gas (BG Group) has been dealing with the Tel Aviv government. In turn, the Hamas government has been bypassed in regards to exploration and development rights over the gas fields.

The election of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 was a major turning point. Palestine’s sovereignty over the offshore gas fields was challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court. Sharon stated unequivocally that “Israel would never buy gas from Palestine” intimating that Gaza’s offshore gas reserves belong to Israel. In 2003, Ariel Sharon, vetoed an initial deal, which would allow British Gas to supply Israel with natural gas from Gaza’s offshore wells.
In short, Operation Cast lead, which commenced in December 2008, was an attempt to nullify the terrorist threat from Hamas. This would pave the way for Israel to consolidate all offshore gas reserves: In the wake of the invasion, Palestinian gas fields were de facto confiscated by Israel in derogation of international law.

...What is now unfolding is the integration of... adjoining gas fields including those belonging to Palestine into the orbit of Israel.  

But lets not forget claims from other countries in the region - Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus. Would this ignite a wider conflict?

Lebanon became the first flash point after Israel began exploratory drilling in disputed waters. This led to a threat of attack from Lebanon if Israel began production in the area.

Israel expanded its naval presence in the area. It also deployed drones to monitor the area. But Lebanon was not deterred: In 2013, Lebanon made a move of its own. It began negotiating with Russia. The goal was to get that country's gas firms to develop Lebanese offshore claims, while the formidable Russian navy would lend a hand with the "long-running territorial dispute with Israel."

By the beginning of 2015, a state of mutual deterrence appeared to be setting in. Although Israel had succeeded in bringing online the smaller of the two fields it set out to develop, drilling in the larger one was indefinitely stalled "in light of the security situation." U.S. contractor Noble Energy, hired by the Israelis, was unwilling to invest the necessary $6 billion in facilities that would be vulnerable to Hezbollah attack, and potentially in the gun sights of the Russian navy. On the Lebanese side, despite an increased Russian naval presence in the region, no work had begun (TomDispach).

Then of course there is war torn Syria: Meanwhile, in Syria, where violence was rife and the country in a state of armed collapse, another kind of stalemate went into effect. The regime of Bashar al-Assad, facing a ferocious threat from various groups of jihadists, survived in part by negotiating massive military support from Russia in exchange for a 25-year contract to develop Syria's claims to that Levantine gas field. Included in the deal was a major expansion of the Russian naval base at the port city of Tartus, ensuring a far larger Russian naval presence in the Levantine Basin.

While the presence of the Russians apparently deterred the Israelis from attempting to develop any Syrian-claimed gas deposits, there was no Russian presence in Syria proper. So Israel contracted with the U.S.-based Genie Energy Corporation to locate and develop oil fields in the Golan Heights, Syrian territory occupied by the Israelis since 1967. Facing a potential violation of international law, the Netanyahu government invoked, as the basis for its acts, an Israeli court ruling that the exploitation of natural resources in occupied territories was legal. At the same time, to prepare for the inevitable battle with whichever faction or factions emerged triumphant from the Syrian civil war, it began shoring up the Israeli military presence in the Golan Heights.

The Palestinians though were still prepared to push for their share in the offshore gas. They have been negotiating with Russian gas giant Gazprom with the prospect of bringing Russia into the exploration arena. However nothing concrete had emerged yet. And the Israelis weren’t going to hang about as spectators. With an energy crisis at home and Hamas seen as the 'spanner in the works', it was time for the next assault against Gaza.

As the Guardian headline put it 'IDF's Gaza assault is to control Palestinian gas, avert Israeli energy crisis'. Operation Protective Edge was underway.

The article notes: According to Anais Antreasyan in the University of California's Journal of Palestine Studies, the most respected English language journal devoted to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel's stranglehold over Gaza has been designed to make "Palestinian access to the Marine-1 and Marine-2 gas wells impossible." Israel's long-term goal "besides preventing the Palestinians from exploiting their own resources, is to integrate the gas fields off Gaza into the adjacent Israeli offshore installations." This is part of a wider strategy of:
"…. separating the Palestinians from their land and natural resources in order to exploit them, and, as a consequence, blocking Palestinian economic development. Despite all formal agreements to the contrary, Israel continues to manage all the natural resources nominally under the jurisdiction of the PA, from land and water to maritime and hydrocarbon resources."
In a follow up article in The Ecologist, Nafeez Ahmed - who authored the Guardian article - cites further revelations about the Great Gaza Gas swindle. It would appear that things were not as they seemed regarding the roles of Noble Energy and BG. Of interest was the involvement of Tony Blair: Despite repeated breakdowns in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to exploit the Gaza Marine gas reserves, Israel's interest only accelerated.
In May last year, Israeli officials were in "secret talks" for months with the British Gas Group (BG Group), which owns the license over Gaza's offshore resources, over development of the reserves.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Gaza Marine holds about 1.6 trillion cubic feet in recoverable gas, and "offshore Gaza territory may hold additional energy resources."

Determining the size of these additional resources requires further exploration which, however, is limited by "uncertainty around maritime delineation between Israel, Gaza, and Egypt."

Senior Israeli sources said that the Gaza gas issue was expected to come up in US President Barack Obama's talks with Israeli leaders during his visit to Israel at the time.

The talks also included Netanyahu's personal envoy Yitzak Molcho and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in his capacity as Quartet (US, UK, EU, Russia) special envoy to the Middle East. Palestinian leaders, though, were excluded from these talks due to "political sensitivities and the complex relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas."

It is also revealed that Israel distorted the potential of the gas reserves available: ...the drive to access Gaza's gas was likely magnified in the context of a report by Israeli government chief scientists Sinai Netanyahu and Shlomo Wald of the Energy and Water Resources Ministry.

That report was submitted to the Tzemach committee tasked with drafting a national gas policy, but was covered up until Ha'aretz obtained a leaked copy.

The Tzemach committee recommended the government to export 53% of its gas - reduced to 40% this June - amidst widespread allegations of "improper conduct" and deliberate inflation of reserve figures.

Indeed, according to the report of the Israeli chief scientists, the government's gas policy is based on underestimating future Israeli demand and overestimating the country's gas production potential. In reality, the scientists said, Israel will need "50% more natural gas than has been forecast until now and its offshore reserves will be empty in less than 40 years."

Its clear that there was no way proceeds from any gas exploration could end up with Hamas: Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya'alon - then former IDF chief of staff - explicitly advocated that the only way in which Gaza's gas could be developed was through an Israeli military incursion to eliminate Hamas.

Ya'alon's concern was that "Palestinian gas profits would likely end up funding terrorism against Israel", a threat which "is not limited to Hamas" and includes the Fatah-run PA. As preventing gas proceeds from "reaching Palestinian terror groups" is "impossible", Ya'alon concluded:
"It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement."

Ya'alon's concerns voiced in 2007 - and the prospect of using military force to begin gas production in Gaza - remain relevant today. As the man in charge of Israel's current war on Gaza, Ya'alon is now in a position to execute the vision he had outlined a year before Operation Cast Lead.

Thus, the exclusion of Palestinian representatives - whether Fatah or Hamas - from the latest negotiations between Israel and BG Gas is no accident.

While PA president Mahmoud Abbas was independently seeking to reach a deal with Russia's Gazprom to develop the Gaza Marine, Netanyahu had already "made explicitly clear that he could never, ever, countenance a fully sovereign Palestinian state" - which is why he deliberately torpedoed the peace process, according to US officials.

The article concludes: Israel's own commitment to blocking a two-state solution and bypassing Hamas meant that its only option to bring Gaza's gas into production was to do so directly - with, it seems, the competing collusion of American and British energy companies.

With Gaza in ruins following Operation Protective Edge, any hope of an economic windfall from offshore gas has also been blown apart. But Israel's exploitation of the offshore resources has been limited. There's the ongoing dispute with Lebanon. Internal wrangling within Lebanon makes it difficult for anything of substance to emerge from within the country. Then there is the fact that Lebanon has been technically at war with Israel since 1948.

Given the border disputes between the two countries, an article from Ya Libnan notes that: In the absence of a mutual agreement on the border and division of resources, Israel could follow the “right of capture” rule, which allows a nation to extract oil or gas from its side of the border, even if the reserves stretch into another country’s territory. Some Lebanese politicians have accused Israel of attempting to steal Lebanon’s oil and gas resources, and militant Shiite Hezbollah has sworn to use its weapons to defend them. Israeli officials have warned of retaliation for attacks on its oil and gas facilities.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea offers specific guidelines for maritime borders, but Israel is not a signatory to the convention. “It requires mutual recognition of those borders,” says Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Washington. “So this will require the two sides to sit down and agree on this, which I don’t see happening.”

Israel has placed buoys where it believes the sea border lies, and routinely defends it with armed force. The UN does not recognize the line as legally binding, but the naval component of the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon observes a 1.25-mile buffer north of the line to avoid potential confrontations with the Israeli navy.

Suffice to say, the area is a tinderbox. Its of no surprise that the region remains under developed as the risks are high for investment. Renewed hostilities between Lebanon and Israel can't be ruled out.

The Jordan connection
There's another party that has recently entered the arena, and its generating considerable controversy. 

Jordan is one of the more stable countries in the region. But the decision to come to an unbinding agreement with Israel to supply Jordan with gas from offshore reserves has sent ripples through the country. It has also prompted an Avaaz campaign (Arabic version) over the issue.           

The Jordanian Parliament is divided. The reasons cited for a possible final deal is due to an interruption of gas supplies from Egypt, which has created energy shortages in the country.

The Al Monitor article states: Jordanian economist Yusuf Mansour criticized the natural gas deal with Israel, saying that Jordan should not tie its economic interest to a country that time and again failed to honor its commitments under their peace treaty. He told Al-Monitor that Israel has violated the treaty with regard to allocating Jordan its fair share of drinking water and by threatening the status of Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem. “We have no clear energy strategy, and now we will be fully dependent on Israel. What kind of a policy is that?” Mansour asked. He said the government should instead focus on developing its shale oil resources.

The $15 billion deal has divided Jordanian deputies, with some backing it as an economic necessity. Many others, however, have in recent months expressed increasing hostility toward Israel. The gas deal is also opposed by the country’s largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, in addition to professional associations, with some calling for the abrogation of the 20-year-old peace agreement between the two countries. The latest confrontation between the government and the Lower House underlines the negative perceptions of Israel in Jordan. Only last month, deputies waged another attack on the government in the wake of repeated incursions of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the Haram al-Sharif, by Jewish extremists under the protection of Israeli security.

Under the peace treaty, Jordan maintains a special role as custodian of Islamic sites in East Jerusalem. King Abdullah condemned the Israeli provocations on the Haram al-Sharif, and a diplomatic rift was avoided when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Amman on Nov. 13 and assured the king, in the presence of US Secretary of State John Kerry, that his government had no intention of changing the status quo at the holy site. Still, Israeli provocations continued, putting pressure on bilateral relations and giving Jordanian deputies fresh ammunition to attack the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour for failing to take action. Meanwhile, Jordan’s ambassador to Israel, recalled at the height of the crisis, remained in Amman.

The article also notes: Adding to public anger against Israel was Netanyahu’s intent to present the controversial Nationality Law to the Knesset, which has since been dissolved in anticipation of general elections on March 17. Former Prime Minister Taher al-Masri wrote in the daily Al Ghad on Dec. 7 that if Israel adopts the law it will “deliver a painful blow to the concept of peace entailed in the 1994 Wadi Araba peace treaty while revealing its true position on a final settlement to the Palestinian problem.” He added that the proposed law is a direct threat to Jordan’s national security.

Masri, viewed by many as the titular head of Jordanians of Palestinian origin, said that the Nationality Law may cause the transfer of 1.8 million Palestinians to Jordan. He added that Jordan stands to be a casualty of this law, in addition to the Palestinians, and that the kingdom should wage a major diplomatic campaign to stand against it because, he said, “It literally means the burial of the two-state option.”

Adnan Abu Odeh, former chief of the Royal Court, agrees. He told Al-Monitor that passing the law would mean that Israel’s Arab minority, and all other non-Jews, “will be second-class citizens in Israel and will be threatened with transfer.” He added, “Jordan faces two challenges — demographic and geographic.”

“Transferring Israel’s Arabs to the Palestinian territories, as recently suggested by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, will surely be followed by a mass exodus to Jordan.” Abu Odeh believes that the only way to circumvent such a possibility is for the United Nations to recognize the state of Palestine and end the Israeli occupation.

Jordan BDS has cited a case against supplying Jordan with gas from Israel. It cites the official Government position:
  • It was signing with an American company to import gas from the Mediterranean; 
  • there were no other alternatives to solve Jordan’s energy crisis due to the disruption of the Egypt gas pipeline and Jordan’s subsequent dependency on diesel to generate electricity; 
  • this deal will save Jordan USD 988 million/year.         
The article cites viable alternatives to using gas supplied by Israel: A number of alternatives are available as immediate and mid-term solutions that to avoid the energy crisis, as had been documented in Jordan’s National Energy Strategy 2007-2020. The gas from the Leviathan does not pose an immediate solution as it cannot arrive prior to 2018 at minimum, whereby other solutions will, and should, be in place. 
 1)      Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG): The Aqaba LNG Terminal is due to be complete in quarter 2 of 2015, allowing Jordan to purchase liquefied gas from the international market.
2)      Oil Shale: Jordan has the 4th largest oil shale reservoir.  An agreement has finally been signed (despite years of attempted development of this resource) for power generation from oil shale, and electricity generation is scheduled to start for local consumption in the second half of 2018 as phase 1 of a longer term project. The oil shale fired power plant is expected to reduce the Kingdom’s expenditure on energy imports by more than JD 350 million per year, in addition to creating 3,500 jobs during construction and 1,000 jobs during operations.
3)      Renewable Energy: The national strategy set a target for renewable energy of 10% of the energy mix by 2020.  In spite of high interest by investors due to Jordan’s high potential in solar and wind energy, progress by the Government has been debilitating.
4)      Energy Conservation Strategies and Measures: Enacting a firm set of measures to address conservation of energy at both the demand and supply side.  A Jordanian electricity distribution company recorded electrical losses of 17% for 2013, whereas accepted international range is 5-6%.
5)      Public transportation system: Through investing in and enhancing Jordan’s inefficient public transportation system, energy imports can significantly decrease, reducing the trade deficit.
6)      Seeking regional countries to for oil & gas imports: Kuwait and Egypt have announced over the past 2 months that they will be importing natural gas from Iraq and Algeria, respectively. As announced by a spokesperson for the Energy Committee of the Lower House of Representatives, the Qatari Embassy confirmed they have not been approached by Jordanian officials as of 2012 for any price negotiations to export gas to Jordan. 

The article notes the repercussions of pushing this deal through: By signing this agreement, Jordan and Egypt would cement Israel as the upcoming energy power in this region, tilting the scale of powers for the entire region.  Jordan’s LOI [Letter of Intent] is highly significant for Israeli interests, as it represents an anchor (collateral) for their $6.5 bn Leviathan project as announced by the consortium, in order for phase 2 of the Leviathan field’s development to continue.

Jordanian households directly contributing to Israel’s war machinery: the share of the Zionist government from this deal being paid for by the Jordanian government (through funds paid by the citizens for their electricity bills) will be at least 8.4 billion dollars. Consequently, this money will be used to fund the Zionist war machine and aggression, while also funding the expansion of illegal settlements and enhancing the Zionist economy.  The amount that will be channeled back to the Israeli government is the equivalent of slightly more than the cost of three future wars against Gaza ( the last war waged by Israel which cost 2.52 billion dollars. 

A briefing report from Platform gives a detailed analysis of deal, providing the relevant facts and figures. In summary: Out of the $15 billion total, Jordan will pay 56% to the Israeli state in royalties, windfall tax levy and corporation taxes. Over 15 years, $1.7 billion will cover drilling and operating costs, $4.9 billion will go to the companies that own Leviathan and $8.4 billion to the Israeli government. This last figure corresponds to an annual payment of $559 million. Of the amount that will go to the companies that own Leviathan, US-based Noble Energy will take $1.93 billion, and the three Israeli companies $2.93 billion. 
It is possible the deal won't go ahead given the adverse reaction within Jordan. But its not just Jordan that is standing in the way of progress. Even within Israel, obstacles are appearing, as the Financial Times reports: Israel’s antitrust regulator said it would recommend to courts that the partnership developing the $6.5bn Leviathan project be broken up.

While the wrangling continues, uncertainty remains as to who will eventually exploit the gas resources. 

An article from Motley Fool considers the regulatory stalemate within Israel. In essence: the key obstacle to a major push in developing the reserve in Leviathan appears to be the domestic dispute within Israel over the details of how much of the gas should be exported. In June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to set aside 40% of the gas for exports without consulting the legislature. Since then, opposition parties and civil society groups have petitioned the supreme court, questioning the legality of the government's unilateral and opaque decision.

But there are wider geopolitical issues at play, especially with the spectre of Gazprom hovering over the region. There are plans to build a transit route to Europe, which could supply Europe with natural gas indirectly from Israel. This will have ramifications on the Russian supply of gas which much of Europe currently relies on. Motley Fool elaborates: With such a large investment in the pipeline project and political objectives in Eastern Europe tied to keeping the region dependent on gas from Siberia and the Arctic, Russia would greatly benefit if alternative sources of natural gas did not enter the European market and weaken Gazprom's leverage. For both Gazprom and Moscow, the potential pipeline connecting the gas from the Levant Basin to the regional pipeline in Turkey is a major hindrance to their financial and political objectives.

Accusations have been made that Russia had offered to stop shipments of sophisticated weaponry to Syria if Israel would promise not to export gas to Europe. Although Prime Minister Netanyahu admitted to having discussed matters related to gas exports with Russia, he denied that this specific condition was brought up.  Even if the unlikely offer was brought up by Moscow, the lucrative export to Europe would be too good for Israel to pass up.

The Ukraine conflict has of course been a major focal point of late. It has also served to fuel anti Russian sentiment from the west. Despite a recent ceasefire in the region, effectively bringing an end to hostilities, the rhetoric continues to build, particularly from Washington. This has been amplified by the recent assassination of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov.

With the US leading a sanctions crusade against Moscow, Europe has been a reluctant partner because of the reliance on Russian gas supplies. Now if Europe had an alternative supply from the Mediterranean... 

Perhaps the focus of Russia bashing isn't restricted to Ukraine. It would make sense for the US to isolate Russia if there was a possible alternative to Russian gas for Europe.  
I'm not here to expound yet more conspiracy theories. But given my previous discussion above concerning the fate of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, which was blamed on Russia, its worth pointing out here some related issues.

If you are going to engage a high profile assassination, timing is everything. With immense pressure on Russia from the west, the timing of the Nemtsov killing couldn’t be worse. Whatever your opinion of Vladimir Putin, he's not stupid. Dispatching a rival under the current political climate would be tantamount to political and economic suicide. 

Alternative media suggests a false flag scenario for the killing. But whatever the truth it may be some years before the real story comes out. 

Its interesting to note Nemtsov's Jewish background, covered in this article. Apparently Nemtsov had converted to Russian Orthodoxy. Israel is highly critical of Jews who convert away from Judaism: Jews who converted do not necessarily find the pastures greener on the other side of the fence, and there is no guarantee that they will not be considered Jews by anti-Semites. Furthermore, Israeli law is much stricter than Jewish religious law with a convert: A Jew who converted to another religion forever loses his right of return to Israel, while halakha allows for returning souls to rejoin the Jewish people.

The article also notes the prevalence of anti Semitism in Russia.

So, was Nemtsov's murder a calculated risk by the Kremlin, or was he just a pawn in a much wider geopolitical game of chess. 

All this is of course highly speculative. But then that's all we've had of late - speculation. When it comes down to it, when stakes are high, bizarre events have a tendency to happen.

Into the future
What does the future hold for the region? The recent elections in Israel has certainly posed this question. With Netanyahu holding the reins of power for another session, it would appear to be business as usual. 

But what ever way you look at it and whatever figures analysts come up with. The gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean  will be a game changer for the region one way or another. And Israel will be right at the centre.

This raises another question, where does this leave the global BDS campaign? If Israel does succeed in filling its coffers from gas earnings, we will have a situation where power is fuelled by wealth. 

Within the realms of curbing greenhouse gas emissions, a global divestment campaign has proven fruitful in persuading various actors from divesting from the fossil fuel sector. This could hold the key to holding Israel accountable for its ongoing apartheid policy and occupation, whether it is arms companies or whatever.

It will be interesting to see whether environmental organisations can be persuaded to stick their heads above the parapet to campaign to leave the gas where it is. Certainly companies like Noble Energy could be targeted and possibly British Gas if it gets involved again. Then there's Gazprom, with the power of Russia behind it. Something Greenpeace will be very familiar with (no doubt well and truly noted by Middle Eastern players).   

Over six parts, I've attempted to project the complex background of an old conflict. Whether I've managed to make sense of it, only you the reader can decide. I think I have - more or less.

Israel is an artificial state, borne out of European imperialism, more specifically British imperialism. The same could be said of many states in the African continent and elsewhere as countries were arbitrary drawn on a map.

Israel is of course different. It may be artificial, but it was deliberately planned - a product of the political ideology known as Zionism.

Today, Israel owes its existence to the US. Without such support, its existence could not be guaranteed. And with the Jewish lobby so powerful in the US, Israel is almost the 51st State.

But Israel's survival also depends on propaganda decoys - smokescreens that obscure the reality that underpins its existence. 

One of those decoys is the charge of anti-Semitism levied at anyone who criticises the country. Its a phrase that has become lost in semantic obscurity, overused and taken entirely out of context, consolidating instead an enduring fallacy.

'Israel is the land of the Jews' it claims. Only it isn't. Its another decoy. A nebulous event horizon for ignorant secular Jews, who find themselves trapped in Israel's gravitational pull unable to escape. 

Israel is Zionism Incorporated. It is also the blasphemy of the wider entity of Judaism that is not ignorant and fully understands the meaning of being Jewish.

Israel owes its existence to the enduring fantasy it has created. Like the flip side of Disney, Its only when Palestine suddenly appears and the trip wears off, that you suddenly realise that you're not in Paris or Orlando.                   

I've no doubt anti-Semitism does exist. Some countries have laws against anti-Semitism. But this manifests itself as selective racism. Anti racism and discrimination laws are universal. They do not give preferential protection against a specific ethnic Group. 

Another decoy is the victim complex (or play). Israel sees itself as being the victim. This has its roots in the holocaust. This is an important smokescreen, because it obscures the fact that the Zionists turned a blind eye to the holocaust. Indeed many German Jews who emigrated to Palestine were pro-Nazi and supported the German war effort, not to mention the fact that key Zionist activists collaborated with the Nazis. Its hardly surprising then that there is a similarity to the German war machine and the current Israeli Military complex.

But the real underlying problem at the end of day is the neoliberal corporate driven system that we are all a part of. Conflict, environmental problems, austerity - whatever. These are all symptoms of an irrational psychotic global system, which focuses purely on profit.

Several times in past posts I've referenced the film The Corporation. Brilliant and insightful, it illustrates what really makes the world go round. It exposes the alarming reality that if a Corporation was a person it would be clinically diagnosed as an insane psychopath. In the context of this article - how else would you describe an arms company... ?

As for our 'leaders', the political system - especially in the US - could be more realistically described as an auction, where politicians are bought and sold like cattle to the highest corporate bidder. 

I stated right at the beginning of this article that the subject matter covered here was different from the usual material. But is it really? If you look at the world through an environmental lens, you miss the bigger picture. Other environmental sources have covered Israel/Palestine. Checkout this powerful article from The Ecologist.

Everything is linked and really the System has to be seen as an holistic functioning whole. Challenging the System as seperate parts has its limitations. This is the perspective of traditional NGO's. The new generation of online based organisations such as Avaaz and 38 Degrees challenge the System as a whole. And I think this the only way the '99%' can challenge a status quo driven by a tiny elite.

With TTIP and TPP on the horizon, this could raise the stakes considerably. If these come into force then the so called 'New World Order' really could become a reality. 

If you've read this far, then you're engaged. In your own small way you can make a difference. Please don't let the deaths of 2100 Palestinians last summer be in vain.