Palestinian Civil Society Leaders Say PA Must Withdraw from East Mediterranean Gas Forum
PRESS RELEASE: Palestinian Civil Society Leaders: PA is a Fig-Leaf in “East Mediterranean Gas Forum” and Must Immediately Withdraw
29/4/2021, Al-Bireh -- After closely examining the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), representatives of Palestinian civil society held a press conference on Tuesday 27 April condemning the PA’s “fig-leaf” role in the forum, enabling Israel to perpetrate pillage of Palestinian gas resources.
The speakers called for popular pressure on the PA to meet the following demands:
Withdraw from the EMGF immediately.
Expose Israel’s pillage of Palestinian natural gas and insist on accurate Palestinian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) maps.
Call on all states, particularly the EU, to respect the Palestinian EEZ and end gas deals with Israel until it stops plundering Palestinian gas and recognizes the right of Palestinians to sovereignty over their natural resources.
Warn the companies involved in Israeli gas projects that they are likely contributing to the crime of pillage, and as such, may be subject to prosecution.
The General Coordinator of BNC, Mahmoud Nawajaa, opened the conference stating:
“The PA’s participation with Israel in the EMGF provides a Palestinian fig leaf covering up Israel’s occupation and theft of Palestinian natural resources, denying our people its rights to these resources. The PA’s membership of the EMGF has provided cover for growing normalization and even military alliances among European states, some despotic Arab regimes like the UAE, and Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid. We also stand firmly for climate justice and for developing fossil-free energy alternatives.
“The PA has failed to wage any diplomatic, media or legal campaign to impede or problematize Israel’s gas projects in the region, starting from its strategic export deals with Jordan and Egypt and its ambition to export gas to the EU. It has also failed to expose the false Israeli maps, which limit the Palestinian EEZ to a triangular shape, effectively stealing and annexing 3,600 km2 of this area to Israel’s EEZ. We must escalate popular pressure to make the PA end this sham at once.
“Chevron and Energean, the two international companies extracting disputed gas, must withdraw immediately. We call for pressure on Cyprus and Greece, both EU member states, to void their gas agreements with Israel pending the resolution of the EEZ dispute.”
Abbas Zaki, Fatah’s Central Committee Member, said:
“The PA must immediately withdraw from the EMGF to protect our people’s natural resources and to hamper the occupation’s ambitions to become a key energy player in the region, which would further its apartheid domination.
“The PA and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, must issue an official position holding Israel responsible for stealing our natural resources, particularly gas. This position must explicitly call on all states and companies to respect their obligations under international law by ending all commercial transactions with Israel in the field of energy until it stops its pillage of Palestinian natural gas and recognizes our people’s right to its natural resources in accordance with international law.
Dr. Mamdouh Al-Aker, the Independent Commission for Human Rights’ delegate, clarified:
“Palestinian civil society representatives had had several meetings with the Palestinian Prime Minister and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in this regard, and we have examined the EMGF membership documents. While we appreciate the admirable efforts by the Ministry’s technical team, it is very clear to us now that this forum neither recognizes nor protects the Palestinian people’s right to its natural resources.
“The current EEZ map deposited by the PA with the UN, and never released to the media, must be updated to be more accurate and must be used in diplomatic, media and legal efforts.”
Shawan Jabbarin, General Director of Al-Haq, stated:
“Referring to EU laws and regulations as well as international law, Palestinians have enough room to maneuver to disrupt the EMGF and assert our people’s rights.
“The PA’s participation in this forum has weakened efforts on the legal front, especially those geared to holding companies that are implicated in Israel’s pillage of Palestinian energy resources and settlements accountable. Any memorandum of understanding must clearly condemn Israel’s settlements, occupation and grave international law violations; otherwise, we must not sign any agreement.”
Majida Al-Masri, BNC Secretariat Member, noted:
“Whenever BDS partners in Europe pressure the EU to exclude Israel from natural gas deals based on Israel’s grave violations of international law and EU obligations and policy in the region, the EU hides behind the PA’s ‘partnership’ with Israel in the EMGF to reject our demands. Furthermore, the EU tells us that they have never received any official Palestinian complaints against Israel with regards to the crime of pillage.
“The BNC also rejects Israeli-Qatari plans for an Israeli gas pipeline to the besieged Gaza Strip. We believe that such plans entrench Palestinian economic subordination to the occupation. As such, we call on the de facto government in Gaza not to go through with such plans directly or indirectly.”
Dr. Azmi Shuaibi, Former Commissioner of “AMAN”, concluded saying:
“The mandate to sign agreements on Palestinian energy sources lies with the Palestinian Ministry Energy and Natural Resources Authority, which is part of the government according to Palestinian law. The violations in this regard started when the government ceded its responsibility for the gas portfolio to the Palestinian Investment Fund (PIF), which is not accountable to the government or the Palestinian Legislative Council. The PIF does not operate based on any Palestinian law, and it was registered as a corporation that is legally vague and questionable. Such murky situations are fertile grounds for corruption.
“This EMGF agreement constitutes a military alliance, particularly since the UAE joined. Based on the Israeli news website Walla, the Israeli energy company Delek will sell a part of its Tamar gas field to a company owned by the Abu Dhabi government for one billion dollars. We warn the PA against participating in this major conspiracy to reorganize the region to serve Israel’s interests, particularly its ambition to become a central player in gas, with a Palestinian cover and the participation of Arab states.”