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Israeli minister touts new 'oil weapon'

Israeli minister touts new 'oil weapon'
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures while summing up his first year in office at a press conference in his office in Jerusalem, April 7, 2010. UPI/Debbie Hill | License Photo

JERUSALEM, April 8 (UPI) -- As the United States and its allies ponder harsh new sanctions on Iran, Israel's infrastructure minister has come up with a new strategy for countering the Islamic Republic and terrorism -- green technology to cripple the main oil-producing states.

Uzi Landau unveiled his master plan at the recent annual conference in Washington of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in the United States.

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By breaking the stranglehold that Iran, Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich states have over the industrialized world, Landau reasons Israel and its strategic ally, the United States, would immeasurably weaken these states and leave them unable to support Islamist terror groups.

In place of oil as the prime source of energy, Landau sees building Israel into a green technology powerhouse in the Middle East and urged the United States to join it in this endeavor.

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"Israel hopes that be repackaging the 'war on terror' in this way it can gain sympathy in the West and deflect increasing expectations that it make concessions to solve the conflict with the Palestinians," said Avner de Shalit, a professor of politics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Senior U.S. officials were in the Washington audience that heard Landau's presentation, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But so far President Obama's administration has made no public comment on Landau's blueprint.

However arcane and politically fraught Landau's plan may sound, it would appear he has the weight of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu behind him.

In October 2009 Netanyahu launched a "national project" at Israel's National Economic Council to find a way to end the world's dependence on fossil fuels.

"Dependence on fossil fuels strengthens the dark regimes that encourage instability and fund terror with their petrodollars," he declared.

Jonathan Cook, a British writer who lives in Israel and has followed this issue, reported: "Mr. Landau is known to be acting on the direct instructions of Binyamin Netanyahu."

The liberal Israeli daily Haaretz, no fan of the hawkish Netanyahu, has reported he hopes that developing eco-friendly green technology will allow Israel to strengthen ties with China, which will one day challenge U.S. economic power and, unlike the West, has no real interest in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

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"Although Israel has developed new solar energy and water technologies, Mr. Netanyahu is reported to want a revolution in fuels used in transport, which accounts for a large proportion of oil use," Cook observed.

"Israeli companies are already involved in researching battery technologies for cars," even though the country has a poor record on using renewable energy sources.

There are, Cook says, "strong indications that Israel's green technologies drive is related to plans developed by U.S. neoconservative groups in the buildup to the attack on Iraq."

According to Cook, some of these groups lobbied the George W. Bush administration "to invade Iraq so that the oil fields could be privatized and the international markets flooded with oil."

The Heritage Foundation, a major pro-Israel think tank in Washington, reasoned that privatization would drive down oil prices and shatter the Saudi-dominated Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

The U.S. occupation of Iraq, however, did not proceed as the neocons expected. The Iraqi oil fields remain in state hands. U.S. Big Oil did not move in to take over the country's vast oil reserves. Instead, non-American oil companies have production contracts to develop them.

Cook notes that at a debate in February on ending the world's oil dependency at Israel's annual national security convention in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, a leading U.S. neocon, R. James Woolsey, director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1993 to 1995, called for the OPEC cartel's destruction.

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Netanyahu's new strategy is likely to torpedo what had seemed to be a nascent and highly discreet effort by some Gulf Arab states to establish contact with Israel about Obama's drive to settle the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic dialogue.

The Saudis and their friends feel as threatened about Iran's nuclear ambitions as Israel and prefer more direct action against Iran than sanctions.

In June 2009 Michael Hertzog, chief of staff to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and a former general in military intelligence, said he had been approached by a senior Gulf official and had similar conversations with officials from Egypt, Jordan and the North African states.

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