Germany to sell Israel a 4th SSK
Germany will sell Israel a fourth Dolphin-class submarine – the first since 2005 – and will finance a third of its costs, reports said Wednesday. Two of Israel's other Dolphins were paid for by Germany, while the third was half-funded by Israel. Two more are under construction.
Germany has already set aside 135 million euros for the project, a German official was quoted in press reports as saying.
1.2 to 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas found off Israel's Coast
Delek Group Ltd. and Noble Energy Inc. on Sunday reported a substantial natural gas discovery at a depth of 5,500 meters in the offshore Tanin 1 (Crocodile) well, 120 kilometers northwest of Haifa.
The Tanin discovery reportedly amounts to 1.2-1.3 trillion cubic feet, making it slightly larger than the two companies' Yam Tethys reservoir, which is rapidly depleting. Delek Group owns its share of the Tanin license through Avner Oil and Gas LP and Delek Drilling LP.
Red Sea to Med Rail Link
JERUSALEM, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Israel said on Sunday it plans to build a railway line linking its Red Sea and Mediterranean ports that could handle potential overflow from the Suez Canal on the freight route between Asia and Europe.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet the idea of ships dropping off goods in one port to be picked up by a second ship at the other, had stirred "great interest" from major exporters India and China.
The project has yet to receive final approval or secure funding. Israel has not issued any cargo volume projections for the proposed electrified railway that would run 350 km (220 miles) from Eilat, on the Red Sea, to Ashdod, on the Mediterranean some 30 km south of Tel Aviv.
"Laying this line thus has strategic importance, both national and international," Netanyahu said in public remarks at the opening of a cabinet discussion on the project.
Israeli officials rebuffed any suggestion the railway plan came in response to political turmoil in Egypt and the rise of Islamist parties, though Israel has quietly been preparing for the possible erosion of its landmark peace accord with the neighbouring Arab power.
One official told Reuters the railway was a safeguard against the Suez proving incapable of handling surging maritime trade. The canal handled 8 percent of global seaborne traffic in 2009, Egyptian authorities say.
"There is going to be a lot of pressure on the Suez, and the idea here is to find an insurance should the canal not be able to deal with the volume," the official said.
Asked if the Israeli project might bite into Egyptian revenues from tariffs to sail the Suez, the official said: "We do not in any way intend to do anything of the sort."
Samech Nabil, consul-general for the Egyptian embassy in Israel, said it would be premature to comment on the planned rail link, given the project's preliminary nature.
"I think this is purely an internal issue," Nabil told Reuters.
A year after an Egyptian uprising that toppled U.S.-aligned President Hosni Mubarak, Israelis fret at the rise of Islamist politicians in Cairo who firmly back the Palestinians and resent ties with the Jewish state.
Both countries have sought to play down any threat to their landmark 1979 peace accord in public and Israeli ships - including naval vessels - have continued to sail through the canal.
Oded Eran, a retired Israeli diplomat who is now senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, said global traders were increasingly looking at overland transport alternatives to sea routes.
"Going through Suez costs a lot of money in demurrage," he said, describing the time-consuming process of ships obtaining permission to enter the canal and transiting.
Israeli media projected the train line would cost around $2 billion to build. Its Transport Ministry said it was seeking a Chinese company to build it and estimated it would take up to five years to complete.
Israel is heavily dependent on imports, especially for energy, and is wary of any potential threat to supplies. It launched the 1967 war after Egypt blockaded the Strait of Tiran between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, cutting off Eilat.
Eran doubted Egypt would again threaten Israeli shipping, and said he believed assurances by the Netanyahu government that the railway would be primarily a commercial, rather than a security, asset.
Israeli officials linked the project to wider efforts to vitalise Israel's southern desert regions, including a pipeline between Eilat and Ashdod which is envisaged will pump natural gas from Mediterranean platforms for export through the Red Sea. (Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by Jeffrey Heller; Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Ben Harding)
Israel-Cyprus Power Line
Minister of Energy and Water, Dr. Uzi Landau, instructed the Israel Electric Company (IEC) Sunday to press ahead with the laying of an underwater cable to Cyprus. The IEC is to prepare a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that it will sign along with DEH Quantum Energy, a firm controlled by the Electric Company of Greece, the Cyprus Bank and another private firm.
The IEC and DEH are expected to sign the MOU in a few weeks' time. This will lead to a feasibility study, which will be followed – if all goes well – by ratification of the project by the Israeli and Cypriot governments, in the course of 2012.
The cable will be 270 km. long and provide an energy connection between Israel and Cyprus, 2,000 meters below sea level. Electricity will be able to flow in both directions at a capacity of up to 2,000 megawatts. Another cable will connect Cyprus and Crete, which is part of the Greek electricity grid. Therefore, Israel will effectively be connected to the European electricity grid.
An MOU for the longer cable has already been signed between Greece and Cyprus.
The entire project, including the Cyprus-Crete cable, is estimated to cost 1.5 million euro, one third of which is the cost of the Israel-Cyprus cable. The investment is expected to be recovered in full in four years' time.
Minister Landau began advancing the project last November, when he visited Cyprus alongside President Shimon Peres. He discussed the matter with Cyprus's Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism, Praxoula Antoniadou, who stopped over for a brief visit in Israel last week and held further talks with Landau on the subject.
Cyprus as IAF base?
Israeli and Cypriot officials plan to discuss allowing the Israeli Air Force to station its jets there, during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Nicosia later this month, Israeli officials said Monday, Xinhua reported.
Netanyahu's arrival would signal the first-ever such visit to the Mediterranean country, which lies some 420 kilometers to the northwest of the Israeli coast.
"The Prime Minister of Israel will come to Cyprus to emphasize the good relations between the two countries and to strengthen the bilateral relations, which are already good," an Israeli embassy official told the Cyprus Mail in January.
In September 2011, Israel asked Cyprus to permit stationing its aircraft at the Andreas Papandreou airbase in Paphos, the Cypriot OnlyCy.com website reported.
The facility is reportedly capable of supporting and hosting such arrivals, according to the DefenseGreece. Com military affairs website, who noted that the Hellenic Air Force had stationed its F-16 fighter jets there almost a decade ago.
However, the prospect "is at the exploratory stage - it's not clear if it will or won't happen," said an Israeli official, in trying to cool expectations, told Xinhua on Monday.
The official, however, allowed that such a potential offshore airbase "is an existing option, and we're investigating the possibility," but again cautioned that such an agreement "isn't totally sewn up."
DefenseGreece.com termed the proposal "a significant upgrade of military relations between Israel and Cyprus," and one that "would change the military balance in Cyprus."
In January, Israel and Cyprus signed two defense agreements which Cypriot Minister of Defense Demetris Eliades said "sets the basis for the further development of relations in the area of defense cooperation."
Eliades, who signed the deal with Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak, touted the visit as "historic and very important for the development of the two countries' relations," AsiaNews said.
Eliades added that the massive natural gas reserves found in both Cyprus and Israel's economic zones "opened a new chapter in relations between the two countries," according to the Israeli Globes business news site.