Will the eastern Mediterranean be a regional meeting point between Israel and the United States?
The Summit for Democracy, held in December 2021 virtually and led by the United States, followed a symbolic act: a series of short speeches, including three minutes by Prime Minister Bennett, as President Biden’s goal was to signal to China and Russia that the United States was back. To lead what we once called the “free world.”
From a political point of view, perhaps the most important message from the regional perspective lies in those who were not invited: all the Arab countries, except for Iran and Turkey. Resentment toward countries such as Turkey, a member of NATO, and toward their regimes and policies, is part of a strategic inflection in Washington’s position on the balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean; An inflection in line with Israel’s vital interests.
The previous US administration welcomed the steps of rapprochement in the Israel-Greece-Cyprus triangle, just as it welcomed the establishment of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, but during Trump’s era, this tendency was faced with a purely friendly approach towards Turkey and towards Erdogan personally. Now, it seems that the administration’s position is clearer. Since the Trump era, the United States has lifted the arms embargo on Cyprus. In parallel, the scope of joint military activity with Greece expanded, including participation in maneuvers. As for the economy-energy level, the United States recently gave an expression of its professional skepticism regarding the feasibility of the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline project, which was supposed to be established with the help of European financing, and the Egyptian, Cypriot and Israeli gas would flow from fields in the eastern Mediterranean to Greece, and from there to European markets. However, this is not an American withdrawal from the plan, but rather a search for more feasible possibilities from an economic point of view: for example, the extension of an undersea power cable linking Europe to a large power plant located in Cyprus and powered by gas from independent sources, especially Egyptian and Israeli.
Israel has a great interest in closer relations between the United States and these countries. This may convince the leadership in Ankara that there is no escape from negotiations – perhaps jointly sponsored by the United States and Europe – on an agreed settlement of the border line in the economic waters of the eastern Mediterranean countries. It is important for Israel, Egypt and Cyprus to make sure that its ability to directly access Greece, and from there and beyond, will not be subject to Turkish permission.
In the network workshop that the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security will soon hold on the occasion of the one-year term of the Biden administration, a series of topics will undoubtedly be raised from which a gap appears or in which a gap is widening between the positions of the United States and the positions of Israel, especially Iran and the Vienna talks, as well as the Palestinian issue and behavior towards China . However, the current administration’s position on Israel’s status as part of a new system of powers in the eastern Mediterranean creates an important meeting of interests between Jerusalem, Cairo, Athens, Nicosia and Washington.
by: Colonel Reserve d. Eran Derman