by Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
Under cover of a sudden
interest in developing new green technologies, the Israeli government
hopes to weaken the Gulf states by making their oil redundant and
thereby defeating “Islamic terror”.
Uzi Landau, the national
infrastructures minister, outlined a vision of a world without oil this
week to Israel’s most loyal supporters in Washington as he searched for
wealthy American-Jewish investors and White House support for the
His message was that: “The West
is addicted to oil, and so is bound by states that support terrorism …
Whoever wants to fight radical Islam and terrorist organizations should
know that by purchasing gasoline, he's giving terrorists increased
Analysts say the plan’s chief
goals are to cripple the large oil-producing Gulf states, particularly
Iran, which is seen as Israel’s main rival in the region, and resistance
groups that oppose Israel’s long-term occupation of Palestinian land.
“Israel hopes that by
repackaging the ‘war on terror’ in this way it can gain sympathy in the
West and deflect increasing expectations that it make concessions to
solve the conflict with the Palestinians,” said Avner de Shalit, a
politics professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
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Thousands of delegates at last
week’s annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
(AIPAC), the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in the US, heard Mr
Landau describe the Israeli strategy as the best way to win the “war on
The conference was also attended
by many senior US politicians, including administration officials such
as Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state.
Without Arab money from oil, Mr
Landau argued, Iran would fade as a regional power and “terror groups”
like Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon would cease to exist.
Instead Israel could serve as an alternative “powerhouse” in the Middle
East for environmentally friendly energy sources.
Both Israel and the US are
determined to isolate Iran, which they claim is trying to develop a
nuclear warhead to rival Israel’s own large nuclear arsenal. The White
House is seeking to impose stiff sanctions, whereas Israel is believed
to favour a military strike.
Israel failed to crush Hamas and
Hizbullah, two resistance groups that are backed by Iran, during
attacks on Gaza last year and on Lebanon in 2006.
In a session entitled “Breaking
the habit: Can US-Israel cooperation reduce our oil dependence?”, Mr
Landau appealed to the US to join Israel in eradicating oil dependency
as a way to defeat terror.
As he left Israel for the
conference, he told local reporters he would try to persuade his
audience that “by taking away its primary source of funding, we can
defeat terrorism without firing a single bullet.”
Mr Landau is known to be acting
on the direct instructions of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime
minister, who announced back in October a “national project” to end the
world’s reliance on oil within a decade.
At the same time Mr Netanyahu
gave responsibility to the National Economic Council, a think-tank
inside his office, to develop “breakthrough” inventions that would
eradicate the world’s need for oil and coal-based electricity.
“Dependence on fossil fuels
strengthens the dark regimes that encourage instability and fund terror
with their petrodollars,” Mr Netanyahu told the cabinet as he unveiled
Gideon Bromberg, head of the
Israeli green group Friends of the Earth, said Israel had a very poor
record on environmental issues, but that he welcomed Mr Netanyahu’s
belated interest “even if it is for the wrong reasons”.
“He is an opportunist and
recognises that oil brings power,” said Mr Bromberg. “If you can find an
alternative to it, you make yourself more powerful and make your
Haaretz has reported that Mr
Netanyahu also hopes that new green technologies will allow Israel to
strengthen its ties with China, which the government believes is the
rising global power and less interested in the Palestinians and Israel’s
occupation than the US and Europe.
Although Israel has developed
new solar energy and water technologies, Mr Netanyahu is reported to
want a revolution in fuels used in transport, which accounts for a large
proportion of oil use. Israeli companies are already involved in
researching battery technologies for cars.
There are strong indications
that Israel’s green technologies drive is related to plans developed by
US neoconservative groups in the build-up to the attack on Iraq. Mr
Netanyahu is known to have maintained close ties to neoconservatives in
Some of these groups lobbied the
previous administration of George W Bush to invade Iraq so that its oil
fields could be privatised and the international markets flooded with
According to the reasoning of
officials at one influential think-tank, the Heritage Foundation in
Washington, privatisation would drive down oil prices, break up the
Saudi-backed Opec oil cartel, and drain money away from “terror groups”
and radical Islamic education.
Some neocons regarded this
policy as particularly beneficial to Israel, because it would starve
Hamas and Hizbullah of funds and take the pressure off Tel Aviv to end
In practice, however, the
occupation of Iraq did not help Israel. Funding to Hizbullah and Hamas
instead appears to be provided by Iran.
The influence of neoconservative
think-tanks on Mr Landau has been indicated in recent weeks by the
decision to share the stage with leading neoconservatives such as James
Woolsey, a former head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
At a debate on ending global oil
dependency at Israel’s annual “national security” convention in
Herzliya in February, attended by most of the Israeli cabinet, Mr
Woolsey urged the destruction of Opec, claiming that Saudi Arabia
controlled 90 per cent of Islamic education.
He said that when people filled
up their cars “you are helping to finance the people who finance hatred,
incitement and terror”.
That view was echoed by other
In December the United Nations
criticised Israel for its poor record on using renewable energy sources.
It ranked bottom for using solar sources to generate electricity,
behind countries such as Senegal, Eritrea and Mexico, as well as Western
countries with only a few hours of sunlight.
A government watchdog, Israel’s
state comptroller, issued a report the same month arguing that Israel
had not taken even basic measures to address climate change.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based
in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of
Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto
Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human
Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.