Turkish – Israeli Gas Deal: Now or Never

Even though Israeli – Turkish relations are at an all-time low, there is still a promise of things improving in the near future.


Over the recent years, Texas based Noble Energy and Israeli controlled Delek Drilling have discovered two of the biggest natural gas resources in the World. As a brief summary, Leviathan gas field contains around 16,5 to 22 trillion cubic feet (“tcf”) of gas and Tamar gas field which contains 9 tcf of natural gas. To compare the numbers, according to the 2010 estimations, the whole World’s Natural Gas Consumption per year is 113 tcf. Yet, if you take out the United States, Russia and European Union out of the equation, it becomes 57 tcf, and if you also take out the countries that supply their own consumption from the list, the final number becomes 46 tcf, which means Israel has the resources to supply at least half of the World for a whole year.

Turkey by itself, has 1,6 tcf natural gas consumption record per year. According to Turkey’s Petroleum Pipeline Corporation (BOTAŞ)s’ forecasts in 2012, Turkey’s gas demand will almost double from 1,6 tcf in 2012 to 2,8 tcf by 2030.

When we focus on Turkey’s current providers, we shall see that Russia comes at first in the list with 0,6 tcf after that Iran comes with 0,3 tcf. As we can see, Russia and Iran are the main providers of Turkey’s natural gas consumption.

Current Relations with Russia

Even though, Russia is Turkey’s second largest trading partner and 60% of Turkey’s energy is being imported from Russia, Russia’s military intervention in Syria has incensed Turkey, as it has been a staunch opponent of any transition including al-Assad so far.

It is a known truth that Russia’s military intervention in Syria undercut Ankara’s policies and threatened its interests in a region.

With its campaign of airstrikes launched in late September, Russia saved Syrian President’s Bashar al-Assad’s military in the face of a possible defeat. The appearance of Russian warplanes over Syria also immediately ruined plans of Ankara of a no-fly zone, which Turkey believes would have neutralized Assad’s air power.

Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet has led to a widening war of words between the two countries, and added another wrinkle to the unresolved Syrian conflict.

In his annual State of the Nation speech on Dec. 3, Russian President Vladimir Putin said “I still could not understand why Turkey had shot down the Russian Su-24 bomber, killing two servicemen aboard. We could have solved all questions, issues, contradictions … in a wholly different way. Moreover, we were willing to cooperate with Turkey on the most sensitive issues and were ready to accommodate it more than its own allies would. Only Allah knows why they did it. And Allah apparently wanted to punish Turkey’s ruling claque by taking away its reason and consciousness.” Then he added that Turkey’s “stab in the back” was no accident.

Compared to relations with Israel; Russia failed to respond to the downing of its plane in a diplomatic manner yet it chose to focus its reaction on Erdogan and his family members. Which makes the situation worse than the Israeli – Turkish relations as Israel, despite Erdogan’s provocations, has always managed to keep its reactions in a diplomatic manner and tried not to incite any further dispute. On the other hand, given Putin’s role in Russia and Erdogan’s position in Turkey, this means a political rupture between the two countries, which is unlikely to heal as long as the two leaders are in power.

Possible Israeli-Turkish cooperation in the field of energy

Israel’s government had reached a deal with a U.S. – Israeli consortium on the development of the Leviathan gas field and two other offshore wells. After all the talks over the government’s first proposal in June, the deal shall allow Noble Energy and Delek Drilling to keep ownership of the largest offshore field.

According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the outline will bring Israel hundreds of billions of shekels in the coming years. According to the estimations and preliminary reports Israel has enough natural gas resources to feed Turkey’s consumption for more than 20 years. The only problem is how to bring the gas to Turkey.

Carrying Israeli gas to Europe through Turkey would be advantageous both for domestic and international use, the latter of which would entail sending it to Europe via other lines such as the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (“TANAP”) project. However, Israel is worried about realizing the project without first achieving normalization. Building pipelines under the Mediterranean is costly and difficult yet it seems the cheapest and most efficient way to utilize Leviathan field.

Couple of Turkish private companies including Zorlu Group and Turcas Petroleum are already interested in the project and started multilateral talks, yet the Israeli side intends not to enter into any kind of Intergovernmental Agreement, yet to simply sell the gas and profit from it. However none of the private companies in Turkey has an authority to store and sell the gas to the government, so the deal can only go through via official channels which Israel has been trying to avoid from the beginning.


Even though the relations between Israel and Turkey seem to be at all time low, compared to Russia, Israel has never applied a personal attack on Erdogan or his family, which increases its chance to bring normalization between two countries with a possible lucrative deal while ending Turkey’s dependence on Russia in terms of natural gas. As per my understanding, Turkish side would never say no to its former ally’s helping hand during this difficult times

About the Author
Burhan Dogus Ayparlar is an attorney at law based in Ankara, Turkey. He is also the founder of the Dimpool Policy Center.
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