As America Becomes Energy Independent Expect far Less Interest In The Palestine-Israel Peace Process America's involvement in all Middle Eastern issues largely due to its seemingly permanent oil vulnerability

By Paolo von Schirach

July 7, 2013

WASHINGTON– Is there any correlation between the discovery and exploitation of large amounts of US shale oil and gas, combined with substantial new imports of Canadian oil into America, and Washington’s continued engagement in the Israel-Palestine peace process? Yes, there is –and it is huge. For decades Washington has been deeply involved in trying to broker a final and lasting peace agreement between Israeli and Palestinians in large part because the Palestinian issue affects the Arab World mood towards the West. The conventional wisdom in America was that, to the extent that the Palestinians are daily portrayed by main stream Arab media as an oppressed people living under the yoke of Western backed Israel, there is potential for anti-western retaliation on the part of key Arab countries. But why worry so much about how the Arabs feel or might react?

The Arabs have oil

Yes, you guessed it. Because, due to the vagaries of geology, some Arab countries sit on a huge portion of the world  supply of crude oil. America depends on this oil for its very economic survival. I really doubt that Washington would have been such a committed broker between Israel and Palestine if America produced all the oil it needed and if there were no oil whatsoever in the Middle East. If the Saudi king ruled over a country made out of barren desert and little else, would any US President care that much about his opinions on the fate of the Palestinians? I doubt it.

Look, as sad as the plight of the Palestinians is, it is no worse then that of other ethnic groups crushed by stronger powers. The only reason why Washington invested so much energy to try and “resolve” the Palestinian issue, (as opposed to –say–the Kurdish or Tibetan issue), is that America felt the pressure of the Arab World. And we did not want to be perceived as enemies by our key oil suppliers. 

Energy independent America will be less engaged

But now the issue of US energy vulnerability is about to disappear. You can bet that, going forward, US virtual energy independence will diminish the level of Washington commitment to broker a peace deal between the Jewish State and the Palestinians.

And let me stress that this new and quite favorable energy supply environment is not a dream. It is happening –today. America consumes less oil, while it produces a lot more, (almost 1 million barrels just in North Dakota, a state that until a few years ago produced no oil). Besides, there is the possibility to use enormous US natural gas supplies as transportation fuel, this way further diminishing the need to import oil. Finally, expanded Canadian production means more oil imported from our northern neighbor.

All this additional supply translates into a new reality: America, while still a net oil importer, very soon will not need to import any oil from the Middle East. Yes, this is a brand new world. A world in which America will no longer be vulnerable to oil supply disruptions.

This does not mean that the US will no longer have any interest in what happens in the Middle East. As a global power America will stay engaged; but it will stay engaged at a much lower level, because there will be far less urgency to steer developments in any particular direction.

Isreal-Palestine matters will be downgraded 

In this new context, the festering Israeli-Palestinian issue will continue to fester, unresolved. It will become one of those intractable matters that Washington will monitor, without however the fear that the constant tensions will trigger a major regional conflict with consequences such as another oil embargo that will directly hurt America’s economic viability.

Paradoxically, as the spotlight will no longer be on this old territorial dispute, it may be easier to find if not a solution at least a better modus vivendi between Jews and Palestinians. Until today, some Palestinians surely believed that it paid to be intransigent. They hoped that their stance would get Washington to pressure Israel to make concessions and therefore produce a better deal. In the future, once the Palestinians will have realized that nobody cares that much about their fate, they may become more malleable.

A low priority for Washington

Let me say that these considerations have nothing to do with “who is right and who is wrong” in the context of this endless dispute. I am simply predicting that this conflict, whatever its political and international law merit, will be downgraded, because it is taking place in a Region that will become progressively less significant from a US national security interest perspective.




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