Israel is working hard to be able to export some of its offshore gas resources to Europe, which is seeking to replace Russian fossil fuel purchases since the invasion of Ukraine and sanctions against the Russian president’s regime. Vladimir Poutine.

Mrs von der Leyen met in Jerusalem the head of Israeli diplomacy Yaïr Lapid and the Israeli Minister of Energy, Karine Elharrar.

According to a spokesperson for Ms Elharrar, Ms Von der Leyen repeated that “the EU needs Israeli gas”.

Mr. Lapid in a statement described the ties with the EU as a “strategic asset”.

On Tuesday, Mrs von der Leyen is to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

She is also due to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian Authority expects the EU to pay millions of euros to help it reduce its budget deficit.

– Gas pipeline and gas war –

On the occasion of his first official visit to the Middle East since his accession to the head of the Italian government in 2021, Mario Draghi also met Mr. Lapid, before discussing Tuesday with MM. Bennett and Shtayyeh.

MM. Draghi and Lapid discussed “strengthening bilateral ties, the geopolitical situation in the wake of the war in Ukraine and cooperation between the two countries,” according to Lapid’s office.

Recently, Ursula von der Leyen had suggested putting an end to European dependence on Russian hydrocarbons by 2027.

“Announcements” concerning energy cooperation “with Israel and other partners in the region” must be made “in the coming days”, said a spokeswoman for the Commission, adding that Ms von der Leyen would visit Egypt after Israel.

According to a spokesman for Ms. Elharrar, Israel and the EU have been working for several months on an agreement that would allow the export of Israeli gas to Europe via Egypt.

The crisis in Ukraine makes “Europe a new market, in particular for Israel” which had never considered the Old Continent “as a major market” for its gas exports, Karine Elharrar recently declared.

– Size issues –

Israel entered the circle of gas producing and exporting countries after the discovery in the early 2010s of several gas reservoirs off its coast in the Mediterranean, with reserves estimated at around 1,000 billion BCM (billion cubic meters).

But two major problems arise for Israel: the absence of a gas pipeline to link its drilling platforms in the Mediterranean to markets in southern Europe and a dispute with neighboring Lebanon over the delimitation of part of its area of ​​right. exclusive.

And for export, three main options are available to Israel: transport its natural gas to Egypt, a neighbor already connected to the Jewish state by a pipeline, to then liquefy it and transport it by boat to Europe; build a gas pipeline to Turkey, which is connected to the Old Continent; build a new hydrocarbon route directly to southern Europe.

This third option already has a name, EastMed, based on an agreement with Cyprus and Greece for the construction of an 1,800 km underwater gas pipeline.

But this project, estimated at more than six billion dollars, is expensive, and could take time to materialize. Israeli officials, however, hope to see Italy invest in this pipeline.

The discovery of vast gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean has whetted the appetite of the neighboring countries and fueled border disputes.

In October 2020, Lebanon and Israel, technically still in a state of war, started talks via the United States to delimit their maritime border and remove obstacles to hydrocarbon prospecting. But those talks have been on hold since May 2021 following disputes over the surface of the disputed area.