“Whether you support this deal or not, we can all agree that America’s commitment to Israel remains unshakeable. And we will continue — Democrats and Republicans united — to stand with Israel,” says a statement from Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). Yet, despite widespread opposition from Israel and pro-Israel groups, Schatz, and almost all his fellow Jewish Senators and Representatives, supported the Iran nuclear deal that appears to be done.
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), on September 10, announced: “There’s no doubt whatsoever that the Congress of the United States will allow this agreement to go forward.”
Despite “a nearly $30 million advertising and lobbying effort to kill the accord,” the New York Times (NYT) reports, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee— known as Aipac — suffered a “stinging defeat.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes the deal will fuel Iran’s efforts to destroy Israel, calling it: “A stunning historic mistake.” Addressing Israel’s “diplomatic failure,” the NYT states: “Polls show that large majorities of Israeli Jews agree with him [Netanyahu] on Iran and deeply distrust President Obama.”
Polling within the U.S. reflects similar attitudes here at home: “The American people overwhelmingly oppose this agreement.” Republican pollster John McLaughlin, and Pat Caddell, a Democratic pollster, have conducted four national surveys on the Iran deal and charted the rising opposition to it. Their most recent, conducted on September 2 and 3, reveals the public’s animosity toward the deal: 78 percent wanted Congress to oppose it. The Hill reports: “65 percent say that it is so important that Congress votes on the Iran deal that if their senators voted to stop a vote in the Senate that they would never vote for them again. Only 24 percent say that it is unnecessary to vote. A plurality of Democrats (45 percent) say that it is important that there be a vote.” Yet Democrats, like Schatz, prevented a vote — leaving them in need of atonement.
Now, it is time to, according to NYT, “repair a troubled relationship between the United States and Israel badly frayed over the nuclear agreement with Iran.” In a planned November meeting between Netanyahu and Obama, the White House will offer “more military aid designed to bolster Israel’s defenses.”
Schatz claims: “we must find new ways to enhance our joint efforts to counter threats that endanger Israel every day.”
Israel does face threats “every day.” We know that Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has boldly proclaimed: “There will be no such thing as Israel in 25 years” — which CNN says: makes “a contentious deal pricklier.” We also know that Russia has offered to sell arms to Iran and is partnering with Iran in support of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Earlier this year, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah reportedly said: “A rich and strong Iran … will be able to stand by its allies and friends, and the peoples of the region, especially the resistance in Palestine, more than in any time in the past.”
A brief refresher in the region’s history makes clear why the above statements are important.
In October 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in what is known as the Yom Kippur war. With the help of a U.S. airlift of arms, and other military assistance from the Netherlands and Denmark, Israel began beating back the Arab gains. Because the three countries supported Israel, the “peoples of the region” stood together to use oil price increases as a weapon against Israel and its allies. The result? A total oil embargo was imposed on the United States, the Netherlands, and Denmark. The price of oil quadrupled, causing gas shortages and rationing.
Today, the U.S. has an abundance of oil and that oil could be used “to counter threats that endanger Israel every day” — if the oil export ban is lifted.
Hidden within the pages of a new study, released September 8, on the likely destinations of U.S. crude oil exports, is an explanation of how and why U.S. oil could “bolster Israel’s defenses.”
Engineers at Turner, Mason & Company, which focuses on petroleum refining, marketing, and transportation, did the study. It analyzed the match between U.S. crude and where it will likely flow if the export ban is lifted. Using “a variety of fundamental and commercial factors,” the study concludes: “the large majority of crude exported from the U.S. in an open market environment would stay in the Atlantic basin, flowing to refineries in Europe and other Western Hemisphere markets.” The rationale revolves around the type of crude oil needed for refineries. U.S. “light tight oil” is a good fit for refineries that depend on declining supplies from the North Sea and the increasingly volatile Russian source. Surprisingly, Israel is one of the Russian-oil-dependent countries.
On page 27, the study states:
“World oil markets do not always operate in a pure economic fashion, and there are many other factors that influence crude trade flows. Much of this owes to the fact that national oil companies and cartels (OPEC) are major players in crude markets, and often prioritize political, foreign relation or national security goals above economics. As evidenced by the current U.S. export restrictions, government policy can have major impacts on crude flows even in countries where the oil industry is not nationally controlled. As a result, geopolitical factors and events (i.e., conflicts, sanctions) have historically had a great impact on crude oil supply and demand and have greatly impacted crude flows for years, and this will continue to be the case in the future.”
Later, it adds: “Russia has not been hesitant in the past to use energy as a geopolitical weapon.”
Iran wants to end Israel. Russia is partnering with Iran and Syria. Syria attacked Israel in 1973. These are all widely known facts. But, you may not have known, Russia is a leading supplier of crude oil to Israel.
The study points out the geopolitics: “Most Middle East producers (with the exception of semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan) refuse to provide crude to Israel.” Israel currently satisfies its demand, approximately 250,000 barrels per day, with Russian oil.
It is not hard to imagine a world where, in cooperation with Iran and Syria, Russia, which has been pivoting toward Asia for its crude oil sales, would cut off crude oil supplies to Israel. The U.S. has emergency accommodations in place should that happen, but it would be so much better if the supply lines were already in place, removing the Iran/Russia/Syria partnership’s ability to use oil as a weapon. It is for this reason, the study, on page 29, states: “The opportunity to obtain crude oil supply from the U.S. would be a major benefit for Israel’s security of supply and provide further strengthening of the economic ties between the two countries.”
Rather than falling victim to geopolitics, with the confidence of U.S. oil, Israel can remain strong while surrounded by enemies.
If the White House — and Senators like Schatz — really wants to find new ways to help Israel, lifting the 40-year-old oil export ban should be a no-brainer. Yom Kippur — the “day of atonement” on the Jewish calendar—is September 23. It would be a perfect day for Democrats and Republicans to be united in standing with Israel by lifting the export ban and giving Israel the security of supply and strengthen the frayed ties between two long-time allies.
Action on this issue is expected this week. Call your legislators and tell them you stand with Israel: “lift the export ban.”
This is a guest post by Marita Noon executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.