Securitizing Energy Cooperation: Israel’s Regional Shift in the East-Mediterranean
WashU affiliated authors: Elai Rettig (Dept. of Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies)
Abstract: Does energy securitization promote or hinder regional cooperation over energy resources? This paper argues that policymakers frame energy issues as existential threats to facilitate both outcomes, depending on how they perceive the reliability of their country’s energy supply. When countries are confident in their supply, they begin to seek regional cooperation opportunities that they had previously rejected. Rather than abandon existential rhetoric that served to prevent cooperation when supply was vulnerable, policymakers adopt opposing constructs of security and direct them toward different audiences to gain their support. When addressing the international community, policymakers employ neoliberal concepts of security as a mutually beneficial result of trade and cooperation. When addressing domestic audiences, policymakers employ realist paradigms of security as competition toward self-preservation and dominance. Israel serves as a case study to test this argument. This paper examines how major natural gas discoveries in 2009 shifted longstanding Israeli isolationism and encouraged it to seek deeper economic ties with its neighbors. To promote its new policy, the Israeli government argued before its domestic audience that gas exports are essential for creating leverage against the EU and preventing terrorism on its borders, while simultaneously arguing toward foreign audiences that the exports serve to promote regional unity.