by Yaakov Katz
The government is considering a plan to allocate $100 million to the Navy to enable it to purchase new ships which it will require to effectively protect future Israeli gas rigs in the Mediterranean Sea.
Under consideration is the possibility that the funds will be partially provided by the companies developing the gas fields off Israel’s coast, which are estimated to contain billions of barrels of natural gas.
Israel’s discovery of large natural gas fields off its coast has raised tensions with Lebanon which claims that some of the fields are in its sovereign waters.
In early July, the cabinet approved the demarcation of Israel’s northern maritime border with Lebanon, which sets the economic rights in offshore territories that have become lucrative with the recent discoveries of vast natural-gas resources.
Israel’s concern is that Hezbollah and Hamas will try to attack the Israeli gas rigs at sea in explosive-laden ships, or with anti-ship missiles. Iran has also recently announced plans to deploy warships in the Mediterranean.
While the Navy is traditionally responsible for defending Israel’s coast and its sea-based natural resources, it has told the government that it does not have enough ships and platforms to effectively defend future oil rigs. Some government officials had raised the possibility of hiring private security contractors to protect the fields, but the plan was rejected by the Defense Ministry. The plan under consideration could see the procurement of new ships.
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