Israel’s Hydrogen Future

In the Middle East, raw military power and the flow of gas and oil call the geopolitical tune. In Europe, the same is true. Russia knows that to establish itself as a central pole in a multi-polar geopolitical field, it must possess some economic leverage over NATO. The control of the flow of natural gas into Europe is the Kremlin’s response to the expansion of NATO eastward. But Moscow has its natural gas competitors, and Syrian geography — as an essential pipeline hub — is a major reason why the Russians have come to the aid of the Assad regime in Damascus.

Iran wants to remove the US from the Persian Gulf and establish hegemony in the the Middle East. Along with Qatar, Iran owns the largest gas field in the world (South Pars/North Dome). The control of this flow of gas into the commercial markets of Europe is in direct opposition to Moscow’s leverage over NATO. Qatar wanted the Muslim Brotherhood to overthrow Assad and control the Syrian gas route into Europe. But revolutionary Iran needed a pro-Shiite ally in both Iraq and Syria in order to establish its strategic depth and eventually threaten Israel.

For Tehran — with the US Navy and Air Force near its border and with the memory of the Iran-Iraq War still very fresh — raw power has become far more important than the eventually selling of natural gas. In the world of geopolitics, nuclear weaponry is the height of raw power. Iran wanted into that nuclear game very badly. Missiles on Israel’s border with Lebanon offered Iran a crucial deterrent from Israeli air power. The Obama nuclear deal was the ultimate appeasement for an eventual Iranian nuclear sneak-out potential. President Trump aims to end Iran’s sneak-out potential. His generals are cautioning him to hold back.

Russia wants Assad to remain in power to keep its own air and sea bases intact. This allows Moscow to possess a naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean and the greater Middle East. Also the Kremlin needs to make certain that Middle East gas does not flood into the European market. But Russia is loath to put any large number of its own ground troops into the Syrian civil war. The Assad regime has depended on Iran and its allies for the manpower necessary to roll back the Sunni Jihadist insurgents. While the Kremlin desires an end to the war in Syria, the mere presence of Iran and its militia allies mitigates against a clean end to the crisis. Neither the Sunni population of the Levant nor the Jewish State of Israel can allow a permanent Iranian base of operations in Syria. All regional parties to the Syrian conflict view the endgame of the civil war as a potential crucial threat to their very existence. Israel is no exception.

Just last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel would destroy the Syrian presidential palace if an Iranian military infrastructure is allowed a presence in Syria. Washington was told the very same thing, a few days previous to the Netanyahu-Putin meeting. It appears as if the Sunni Arab states, Israel and both the US and Russia are now caught between Iran and a hard place — war. For years, I have linked the conclusive end of the Syrian civil war with new regional security structures for both Europe and the Middle East. Without a serious alteration to both the US position in Europe through NATO and Russia’s potential dominance of eastern and central Europe, the Middle East risks a major escalation in an end-game military conflict in Syria. The future of the Middle East will simply not allow for hegemony of any kind. This is a truism which includes Iran and Israel along with the Sunni Arabs. Because of the post-Cold-War instability in Europe, any attempt at hegemony in the Middle East might very easily escalate to include the US and Russia.

In Lebanon, the situation with Iranian-made rockets has become untenable. Now Iran is building factories in Syria to produce even more rockets. If these rockets are connected to precision guidance systems, the prospect of tens of thousands of Israeli deaths becomes a Sword of Damacles dangling over Israel’s narrow urban population center. Not since the Yom Kippur War of 1973 has Israel faced such an existential threat. Along with the North Korean situation, the world’s geopolitical reality has become very dangerous.

Israel opposed the Iran nuclear deal with all its diplomatic clout. However, the US refused to stand up to Iran. Unlike the past administration’s prediction — that the nuclear deal would curb Iran’s regional behavior — the geopolitical logic of strategic depth (on all sides) and US uni-polar conflict with Russia (in Europe) have made for an inexorable slide toward Middle East confrontation. President Trump will certainly not allow himself to become another appeaser of Iran. The same is probably true for Trump’s position on North Korea. Even Trump’s generals will not have enough strength to deter war, that is, if Russia decides to challenge Israel over the skies in Syria. But one way or another, those Hezbollah missile factories must be taken out.

Of course, another possibility is a direct US war upon Iran itself. Trump could refuse to certify the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear deal) and go into direct confrontation mode over Iran’s nuclear program. This is the model being expressed by former UN representative, John Bolton. He adopts a very hard line between the US, Iran and all of Washington’s NATO allies. In such a scenario, NATO would either be with the US or against it. Moscow might benefit from such a plan by driving a wedge into NATO, but Iran and eventually Assad might be destroyed in the process. This is not in Moscow’s or Tehran’s interest. Israel would most definitely be caught up in such a situation with an air war over Lebanon and a missile war into Israeli cities. A southern front could be opened by Hamas.

So what does any of this have to do with hydrogen? Iran and nearly all the Islamic countries of the Middle East are dependent on profits from the sale of carbon-based fuels. Little Israel is not in this category. On the contrary, it is a science and research giant. However, solar, wind and biomass technology lack the sufficient energy density to replace our current fuels. But our current fuels are quickly altering the global ecology and therefore endangering our fragile human economy. Israel has been in the forefront in the search for an energy-dense alternative to these carbon-based fuels. Cheap and readily accessible hydrogen is the key to an extraordinary future of environmentally benign electrical energy production. Israel is on the cusp of making hydrogen commercially feasible. It just needs an inventive push.

Peace will come to the Middle East when Israel holds the patents for a solar-hydrogen future. Until such time, the global ecology will remain out of balance. Floods, droughts and heat waves across the planet will be common. The social fabric of nations will continue to fray, and wars for power and resources will continue to plague the earth. Unless Trump and Putin get together soon — without the establishment American generals to prevent an all-important summit meeting over the future of NATO and eastern Europe — all hell could break loose in the Middle East. These two regions (Europe and the Middle East) have become strategically linked. My message to the leaders in Moscow, Washington and the ayatollah in Iran is a simple one. When threatened existentially, the motto of the Jewish people to all the world is NEVER AGAIN!!! Israel will strike hard against those whose desire is the elimination of the Jewish state. All weapon systems are on the table.

Israel will fight tooth and nail to maintain Jewish national sovereignty over its land and its right to be free and independent of threat from the Muslim world. But Israel also understands that the future of all humanity is now endangered from the man-made spread of carbon waste which will lead to a global environmental disaster. Iran suffers from huge water shortages. Ironically, Israeli designs leading to breakthroughs in hydrogen generation could eventually impact Iran, leading to the alleviation of its water problems. Global warming will only make matters worse. With G-d, all things are possible — even peace and a future of solar hydrogen.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).