Efforts continue in Europe and the United States to boycott Israel or at least Israeli goods “tainted” by their production in settlements in the West Bank, and to disinvest in Israeli companies or in U.S. firms doing business there. Most recently, the Presbyterian Church USA joined in, voting that it would divest its shares in Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions because of their sales in Israel.
But in the Middle East, the trend seems to be exactly opposite. This week, Egypt’s petroleum minister announced that Egypt would be buying Israeli natural gas. Why? Because Egypt needs energy supplies, and Israel is the logical supplier of gas. British Gas, the UK company, will extract the gas from Israeli sites in the Mediterranean and bring it by pipeline to Egypt. Here is part of the story in the Daily News, an Egyptian paper:
Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Sherif Ismail does not mind allowing British BG Group to import gas from Israel…. “As the Minister of Petroleum, I remain of the opinion that there is no problem in letting BG Group import Israeli gas to protect Egypt from international fines and arbitration,” Ismail added. The company has not yet requested the government to begin the process of importing gas, he said, and it will only be allowed to import after approval and the signing of an agreement with the Egyptian government. “There is no embarrassment in Egypt using the gas the BG Group imports from Israel given our economic issues,” the minister went on. He stated that politically speaking, the president and the government working indirectly with Israel “is no longer taboo”. “Whatever is in Egypt’s interest must be implemented immediately as we are dealing with an energy crisis,” the minister said.
Meanwhile, the important travel of trucks between Turkey and Jordan has become impossible due to the war in Syria. The solution: send them by ship to Haifa. From there they can drive east into Jordan. Here is part of the Reuters story:
The hydraulic ramp of a Turkish freighter taps down on the eastern Mediterranean port of Haifa and, under a full moon, 37 trucks roll off onto an otherwise empty pier. In a convoy that stretches hundreds of meters, the trucks travel east across northern Israel, bringing goods from Europe to customers in Jordan and beyond. Until three years ago the cargo these trucks carry – fruits, cheese, raw material for the textile industry, spare parts, and second-hand trucks – would have come through Syria. But civil war has made that journey too perilous….Three years after Syria plunged into violence, Israel is reaping an unlikely economic benefit. The number of trucks crossing between Israel and Jordan has jumped some 300 percent since 2011, to 10,589 trucks a year, according to the Israel Airports Authority. In particular, exports from Turkey – food, steel, machinery and medicine – have begun to flow through Israel and across the Sheikh Hussein Bridge to Jordan and a few Arab neighbors. Turkey’s Directorate General of Merchant Marine, part of that country’s transport ministry, said that transit containers shipped to Israel for passage on to other countries increased to 77,337 tonnes in 2013 from 17,882 tonnes in 2010.
These are relatively small numbers, but these two items–gas to Egypt, trucks to Jordan–suggest that economic necessity is pushing these Middle East countries together. Meanwhile, they share some common enemies too, above all the jihadis of ISIS and al-Qaeda. The blind moralists of the PCUSA and other promoters of doing less business with Israel might take note. History is not on their side, nor economics, nor security needs–nor, of course, is their selective moralizing persuasive. It is reassuring that while they vote their prejudices, in the Middle East the Israeli gas will flow and the trucks will sail into and roll out of Haifa.