Black gold in Israel?

There is an old joke in Israel. When Moses wanted to enter in to the promised land, he pointed the children of Israel towards the West and not the to the East. He chose Mount Moriah over oil. Imagine how the world geopolitical map would have looked if it had been otherwise.

For decades, people have been looking for fuel reserves in Israel. In commercial terms, zilch, nothing; but the commentary has filled out many lines of the newspapers. Is that all about to change?

It is almost a year to the day, when large quantities of gas were discovered off the coast of Haifa. Due to reach the consumer in a further 2-3 years and with potential export orders on the cards, this find alone will substantially alter Israel’s balance of payments.

In parallel, the past year has seen a string of reports about potential oil finds. Each time, the region is a different one, pointing to an alternative geological base. The most recent discovery focuses on land north of the Dead Sea. It also involves the Delek Group, which is leading the gas development near Haifa

Other reserves under consideration include a site near Rosh Ha’ayin, east of Tel Aviv, and on the Carmel mountain, close to Haifa. Although Israel’s total annual need is around 80m barrels, barely 0.1% of world consumption, none of the finds have proven conclusive.

Shares in local energy companies, such as Avner and Zerach, have catapulted hundreds of percentage points since early 2009. Some warn that this is a bubble

The fact is that significant gas reserves seem a real possibility. That gives real belief to hope that oil will be found. In any event, Israel’s economic development will shoot forward. The questions are how fast and how will the change be managed?

And the immediate moral? Time for others to re-examine what made Moses such a great leader.

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