In 2010 we looked at the “Merchants of Tarshish  and her young lions” – the role of Britain and  her commonwealth allies in the Middle East;  and last year we looked at the other two countries  mentioned in the same verse in Ezekiel 38 – Sheba  and Dedan. These nations challenge Gog and his  companions concerning their reason for invading  Israel.

“Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of  Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall  say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil?  hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey?  to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle  and goods, to take a great spoil?” Ezekiel 38:13

It seems appropriate to try to see what is the

“spoil and the prey” that brings the nations to attack  Israel. This invasion of Israel lies probably some  years after the return of Christ to his household; so  it brings home the nearness of our Master’s return  when we can already see the signs of great wealth  being found in Israel and her maritime borders. So  staggering is the potential of this wealth that one  can see it as being as great a sign for our generation  as the establishment of the State of Israel was to  the previous generation.

Strategic supplies at a critical time

The gas finds in Israel, with the potential for oil,  certainly have been a striking feature of just the  past three years. After years of seeing many of her  neighbours awash with energy, it is now Israel’s turn  to move up into the energy super-league.

The new gas finds couldn’t have come at a more  critical time. Israel’s main gas well, the Mari B field,  is rapidly becoming exhausted since it first came on  stream in 2004.

Israel has also been receiving gas from Egypt  since 2008, when a branch pipeline off the Arab  Gas Pipeline was finished. This runs under the  sea to Ashkelon where the majority of Israel’s  power stations are located. Some 2bn M3 a year  was shipped to Israel and turned into electricity. The

 

18- 4 turkey

pipeline is capable of carrying up to 9bn M3 a year,  and Israel was negotiating to dramatically increase  the volume of gas purchased from Egypt, when  the Arab “Spring” erupted in Egypt and supplies  greatly disrupted by the pipeline being blown up on  14 different occasions! The contract to supply gas to Israel has subsequently been torn up. Faced with  the disruption in supply, Israel has had to switch to  much more expensive oil and coal to generate her  electrical needs. Electricity prices have rocketed in  Israel as a consequence – now more than a 1/3rd  more than last summer. This is quite a problem for  Israel. Hence the seeming fortuitous timing of the  discovery of the large fields in the past few years.  The Israeli government has insisted that those who  are finding gas in their licenced block must bring  it to the market as quickly as possible. Close to the  fast running out Mari B field are several new finds,  small in size, but in shallow water and can easily  be connected to the existing Mari B pipelines. The  earliest of these should come on stream by the time  this is printed and should tide the gas supplies over  until Tamar comes on stream, which is due in 2013.

gas

This slide of gas finds is getting very full, yet  apart from the Mari-B field are all discoveries in  the past three years!

Israel’s plans for exporting energy

With the volumes of gas expected from the Tamar  well, Israel is busy planning how to export part of  it, as it should more than adequately meet Israel’s  needs. Gas pipelines are expensive to build and  most of the nearby countries that could benefit  from Israeli gas are countries nominally at war  with her! Even Turkey, who was until two years ago  friendly, is now decidedly unfriendly. There are two  solutions. The first is to liquefy it by compression;  it can then be loaded into specially constructed  ships and taken to anywhere in the world that  has the facilities to handle the gas, turning it back  into its gaseous form. There is a great call for gas  in Asia, especially Japan as she phases out nuclear  power, where prices are two or three times higher  than in Europe. Israel is therefore cooperating  with Daewoo, a S. Korean firm that specialises in  shipping LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) as well as  the land side plant. The uniqueness of this venture  revolves around the fact that little Israel does not  want to put the necessary plant to liquefy the gas in  any of her coastal towns. NIMBY Not-in–my-backyard  seems to be the order of the day; there are also  security considerations. So Daewoo are building  a ship with the equipment on board, so it can be  moored close to the off-shore well and can link up  with their carrying ships. An elegant solution. Israel  recognises she will have to provide security to the  wells, so guarding an extra ship should not be too  much of a problem.

The second solution to exporting gas is also a  first. Israel is not alone in generating electricity  from gas in preference to coal or oil. It is cleaner,  cheaper and much easier. So instead of exporting

cable

gas in liquid form or along difficult and expensive  pipelines, Israel, working with Cyprus and Greece  and supported by the US, is planning to export  electricity rather than gas. Initially the generation  plants will be in Israel and an undersea electric  cable laid to one end of Cyprus. A land cable will  run across the island to the other end, connecting  to another undersea cable to Crete. Crete is already  “attached” to Greece by a submarine cable. The costs  are enormous €1.5bn (A$2bn) – but far less than  a gas pipeline, and much quicker to lay. Israel and  her partners are hoping to have this up and running  by 2016! The initial capacity is 2,000 MW (about a  1/6th the capacity of the nine nuclear power stations  that Germany is phasing out due to environmental  pressures.) They are talking of laying more cables to  double the capacity by 2020. The pay-back period  for these huge investments is very short – four years,  indicating the high value of this revenue earner.  The Israeli government are proposing to establish  a Sovereign Wealth Fund to channel the estimated  A$2bn yearly revenue from these energy sources.

Part of the reasoning behind this electrical  link-up is the fact that Cyprus also potentially has  great gas reserves, part of the same Levantine Basin.  The Aphrodite well shows a potential reserve of  144bn M3; this is the first of many planned wells.

The Cyprus government has just closed bidding on  the next exploration blocks to be released, receiving  competing bids from 15 companies! Like Israel, the  potential gas volumes are far greater than Cyprus  can ever consume; the population of the whole  island is 1/7th that of Israel! Cyprus is a divided  country – it is not without significance that it is  divided into a Turkish and a Greek section, ever  since Turkey invaded the north of the island in  1974. The Greek southern part joined the EU in  2004 and became a member of the eurozone in  2008. Israel’s ties to Greek Cyprus have grown as  her ties to Turkey have waned following the Gaza  blockage flotilla incident in May 2010. Turkey has  strenuously complained about Israel’s assistance to  southern Cyprus to exploit the gas resources. Israel  has even made a military pact to help defend any  drilling rigs or gas rigs against attack from Turkey.  Turkey and mainland Greece have long been at  loggerheads, so Israel’s recent switch to supporting  Greece rather than Turkey has, in Turkey’s eyes,  compounded Israel’s wrongs.

Supplying energy to Europe is not good news  for Russia either; reports indicate that she was  hoping to buy Israeli gas to export to the Far East  in order to keep it out of the European markets  where she has a large percentage of the market and  to some extent is able to keep prices high. So here is  another reason for Russia to look with lustful eyes  at the abundance of energy being found in the area.

Israel and oil

The Israelis have been researching for many  years how they could wean themselves off oil, an  expensive product and liable to be cut off in time  of war. The Israeli Energy and Water Ministry has  an oil replacement division. Electric cars are one  of the solutions that are being rolled out. Being a  small country, the limits of a charged battery are  not so critical. They have designed a system of quick  battery exchanges so the vehicle does not have to  wait to be recharged but merely exchanges a rundown  battery for a fully charged one. The car owner  does not have to purchase the initial battery – an  expensive item – instead it is rented from the firm  that is rolling out the exchanging points.

This Ministry department has been tasked with  now looking at the uses that natural gas can be put  to, with grants available for those who can come up  with novel ideas. In March they held a conference  to promote natural gas uses. Dr. Bracha Halaf, the  senior manager explained that natural gas was the  ‘gateway to the future’.

“Israel’s ample natural gas reserves can create  more than just a valuable energy supply for Israel.  Because Israel’s natural gas is mostly made up  of methane, the hydrocarbon substance can be  used in various outlets within the chemical and  transportation industries, a use that is already  occurring in other OECD countries.

In the chemical industry, the natural gas  could be transformed into things like naphtha, a  chemical used in industrial solvents and cleaning  fluids, shoe polish, lighter fluid and other modes;  feedstock for ammonia-based fertilizers; olefins;  formaldehyde; and acetic acid, according to  Halaf. In the chemical industry as a whole, 85%  of all chemicals are produced from 20 simple  chemicals called base chemicals and these are  produced from 10 raw materials – which include  oil, natural gas and other resources, she explained.

For the transportation sector, the natural  gas could be used to generate LPG (liquefied  petroleum gas), jet fuel, diesel, hydrogen gas,  CNG/LNG (compressed natural gas/liquefied  natural gas), gasoline and biodiesel, among other  things, she said. Particularly CNG and methanol  are both readily available from natural gas and  can be economically valuable technologies, as  well as generate many new jobs, she added.

‘It can open a new era for the Israeli chemical  industries’, Halaf said, calling natural gas for  Israel a ‘gateway to the future’.” (Jerusalem Post  29–Mar–12)

If that were not enough, then the vast oil shale  deposits which have in the past few years been  discovered in Israel – estimated to be as great as the  oil reserves of Saudi Arabia – have the potential to  change Israel’s economic power and enable her to  become independent of imported oil. The military  use 50,000 barrels of oil a day, Israel as a whole  needs 300,000 bpd. Israel has limited storage  facilities and is dependent on a steady flow of oil  for everyday life and the military defence of Israel.  The quality of the oil produced from oil shale can  vary considerably, however this source in Israel is  particularly “sweet” – ideal for gasoline (petrol), jet  fuel and diesel. The company set up to exploit this  resource is Israel Energy Initiatives. Its chairman,  Michael Steinhardt, said that it has the potential to make Israel the centre of economic power! No  wonder Mr Putin is scheduled to make a State visit  to Israel this summer (your winter)! Doubtless he  and his aides will be spying out the land!

Gold rush possible in southern Israel

What a transformation in Israel’s economic  potential in just the past few years! But there is  potentially more. Silver and gold is part of the spoil  that Gog desires. We have written in Milestones  about the Australian Centamin group’s successful  development of gold mining in Egypt, now we  learn of another Australian mining firm anxious to  explore for gold in Israel.

“First it was oil, then natural gas, now a  group believes it has found a commercially-viable  concentration of gold in Israel. A few weeks  ago, Gulliver Energy Ltd. officially applied for  a gold exploration permit in the mountainous  area surrounding the southern Israel resort town  of Eilat.

Chaired by former Mossad chief Meir  Dagan, Gulliver believes, according to past  drillings, that the area contains a reasonable  amount of gold in concentrations of 3–4 grams  per ton. Of course, the company would also  expect to find large quantities of other precious  metals, like copper. The mountainous regions  of southern Israel were famous for their copper  mines during Israel’s biblical period.

Gulliver has teamed up with Northwood  Exploration of Australia to explore the 43 square  kilometer (16.6 square mile) area covered by  their permit.”

However three other firms are interested in  exploring for gold, and so the Israeli government  has decided to award the prospecting licence to  the highest bidder. We watch this development  with interest.

Israel and the Iranian threat

The biggest threat to Israel comes from Iran. Iran  has not flinched from pursuing the goal of having  a nuclear bomb for many years. The purpose  of such a weapon is to enable her to eliminate  Israel. The fact that it would do untold damage  to neighbouring Arabs does not deter them. The  “Zionist entity” must be eliminated. Matters are  getting critical, as Iran appears to be close to  achieving her goal of building a nuclear weapon.

Talks by the West have, as always, been spun out  without any progress. Israel’s dilemma is whether to  go-it-alone or depend on America to do the deed.  Israel sees that if nothing is done by the November  US Presidential elections, and Obama is re-elected,  then the chances of America wishing to open what  could be a Pandora’s Box are slight. Will he act  before the election? This appears to be the unknown  factor. Should therefore Israel go alone, hoping that  America will then come and support her action,  as Obama will need the substantial Jewish vote in  the elections.

To be fair, America has been making her own  preparations. Two aircraft carriers are in the region.  two squadrons of America’s most sophisticated  fighter jets – the Raptor – are in the area. Big  reserves of troops are in Kuwait following the  withdrawal from Iraq.

Israel herself has been training for such a long  distance raid, equipping her planes with disposable  fuel tanks to extend their flying range. They have  developed special deep penetration missiles and  America has supplied the latest in bunker-busting  bombs.

The most drastic step that Netanyahu has  taken is to form a National Unity Government.  This took everybody by surprise. Netanyahu had  called for early elections in September, although  he had a mandate to lead the Knesset until 2013.  The very day the Knesset was to take the necessary  legal steps to dissolve, Mr Netanyahu dramatically  announced that he had brought the Kadima party  into his coalition, giving him 94 of the 120 seats  and the elections were off! The last time there was a  National Unity Government was in 1967 following  the closure of the Red Sea to Israeli shipping and  the build-up of Arab troops. A few days later, Israel  launched her pre-emptive strike – the start of the  six day war!

Israel can be reasonably sure of support from  most of the Middle East Arab nations. They feel  just as threatened by Iran as does Israel. One  interesting friend is Azerbaijan which borders  the north of Iran. The friendship between the two  countries has been building up over the past 20  years, to the extent that Azerbaijan is now Israel’s  best Muslim customer! The reason for the friendship  lies in Azerbaijan’s history. Originally part of Iran,  it fell under Russian control in 1813 and became  part of the Soviet Empire in 1920 until the fall of communism and the break-up of the Soviet. She  gained her independence but found herself with  Iran as an unfavourable neighbour. Azerbaijan’s  wealth comes from her extensive supplies in the  Caspian Sea. Most of it is exported to Asia, but  because of troublesome neighbours, it has to take  a very circuitous journey to get to her eastern  markets. First it travels west along the Baku-Tbilisi-  Ceyhan pipeline which links her Caspian oil port  of Baku with the Turkish Mediterranean port of  Ceyhan, having snaked through Georgia to avoid  Armenia. The oil then is shipped to Israel’s port of  Ashkelon and traverses Israel to Eilat through the  TIP – Trans Israel Pipeline – before being shipped  to Asia. As well as a vital transit country, Israel  purchases oil from Azerbaijan, her second biggest  supplier after Russia. In return Israel has supplied  extensive weaponry, drones and anti-missile defence  equipment. Just this March, Azerbaijan signed a  $1.6bn contract with Israel to purchase planes and  equipment.

Israel seems also to have done a deal with  Azerbaijan, to make use of one of her airbases in  the event of an attack on Iran’s nuclear production  facilities. It would be ideal for any Israeli plane that  ran into difficulty to make the much shorter journey  to Azerbaijan than try to get home.

Again we watch and wait knowing all things are  under angelic control.

Russia prepares to move southwards

Not surprisingly Russia is making her own  preparations in the eventuality of an attack on Iran.  She has her own unfinished business in the region.  Russia’s long-term plan is to control as much as she  can of the Middle East’s energy supplies. There is  one big physical problem – the Caucasus Mountains  which separate Russia from the Middle East. There  are a few crossing points, which following her move  into two areas of Georgia in 2008 are now in her  hands. However she needs to have more troops  south of these mountains. In 2008 she took effective  control of part of central Georgia – South Ossetia  – and the western section of Georgia – Abkhazeti.  Since 2008 Russia has been upgrading her facilities  and equipment as well as the troop levels. She  has also been upgrading her big base in Armenia,  as well as the bases in Russia to the north of the  mountains. This is in preparation for a big push  to take over control of Georgia and Armenia and  ideally Azerbaijan, which she is hoping to do under  the confusion of a Western attack on Iran. This  would then put Russia in a very strong position to  eventually roll onwards into the Middle East when  the opportunity arises.

Who can fail to be excited by the abundance  of signs that the Master is at the door. With  the financial world trembling; the natural world  trembling, this time in Italy; with the growing  desirableness of Israel as a spoil and a prey in ways  which we could never have anticipated and the  growing hostility to Israel we will have no excuse  that we did not know the significance of the signs  of our times. The prophets have spoken millennia  ago, we can but stand in awe of the wisdom and  foreknowledge of our God who caused them to  write of these things, whose word is true and we  can entrust our lives to that truth.