British energy giant BP and arms firm BAE Systems are set to profit from Israel amid its ongoing destruction of Gaza, Declassified has found.
While Israel’s military has killed over 11,000 Palestinians in Gaza, its government has announced the award to BP of a lucrative contract to explore for natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean.
Meanwhile, arms firm BAE Systems, which manufactures key parts of the F-35 jets being used to support strikes on Gaza, has seen its share price rise in recent weeks.
A number of British Conservative MPs who rejected last week’s parliamentary motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza have shares in BP and BAE, which are both strongly linked to the UK government.
BP’s new licences
On 29 October, Israel’s Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure announced that it had awarded new licences to six energy companies for offshore natural gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
The announcement came a week after Israel bombed the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, killing dozens of people. The camp was bombed again two days later.
One of the bids was won by a joint consortium of British energy giant BP, Azeri national oil company SOCAR, and Israeli corporation NewMed Energy.
While the bids were made earlier this year, the timing of the announcement was designed to foster investor confidence in Israel amid its brutal war on Gaza.
“Even now, major natural gas exploration companies put their trust in Israel’s robustness and want to invest here”, Israel’s energy minister Israel Katz said.
“The winning companies have committed to unprecedented investment in natural gas exploration over the next three years, which would hopefully result in the discovery of new natural gas reservoirs”, he added.
Israel’s goal is to achieve energy independence and become a net exporter of natural gas. The new exploration licences will also facilitate the West’s efforts to diversify away from Russian energy sources.
In June 2022, the European Union, Egypt and Israel signed a tripartite natural gas export deal in a bid to “ditch Russia”.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission chief and a prominent defender of Israel over Gaza, described the deal as “an outstanding step bringing our energy cooperation to the next level”. She added: “What a special moment”.
BP’s interests have long been strongly supported by the UK government around the world and a former head of the secret intelligence service MI6, Sir John Sawers, has served on its board since 2015.
In March this year, BP launched a joint bid with UAE state oil company ADNOC to buy 50% of Israel’s NewMed Energy company, in a deal valued at $2bn.
“BP has not been put off by Israel’s ongoing destruction of Gaza”
The field produced $2.5bn in revenue last year but is “one of just 425 projects worldwide designated as ‘carbon bombs’ that ‘significantly threaten the Paris Agreement climate targets’”.
BP has not been put off by Israel’s ongoing destruction of Gaza, with its head of gas and low carbon energy, Anja-Isabel Dotzenrath, reportedly telling investors in October that the company still feels “very optimistic” about the deal.
The vast resources in the Levant Basin are disputed, with competing claims from Palestinians, Cypriots, Egyptians, Israelis, Lebanese, and Syrians.
Palestinians, however, have been excluded from benefitting from the region’s energy reserves. In 2019, a United Nations report noted that Israel’s “occupation continues to prevent Palestinians from developing their energy fields”.
As a result, the report continued, “the Palestinian people have been denied the benefits of using this natural resource to finance socioeconomic development and meet their need for energy”, with accumulated losses expected to be “in the billions of dollars”.
The Gaza Marine field, located around 30 kilometres off the Gaza coast, is thought to contain over 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas but has remained undeveloped since 2000.
Israel’s illegal occupation of Gaza also means that Palestinians rely on Israel for their supply of gas and electricity. This relationship of dependence has resulted in constant power outages in Gaza and, more recently, Israel’s cutting off of power to the entire region.
‘The most lethal fighter jet in the world’
Britain’s leading arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, is also set to cash in amid Israel’s war on Gaza.
The company has long had a revolving door with former government officials and one of its non-executive directors is Sir Mark Sedwill, who served as the UK’s national security adviser from 2017-20. Former CIA chief, Gina Haspel, sits on the board of BAE’s US subsidiary.
BAE Systems builds ships, submarines and fighter jets, and has reportedly booked £10bn in orders since the end of June, “taking its total for the year so far to more than £30bn”.
The company manufactures key parts for Israel’s F-35 fighter jets, described as a “stealth combat” aircraft and “the most lethal…fighter jet in the world”. Israel is the only country in the Middle East to possess F-35 warplanes.
Around 15% of the F-35’s components are made in the UK including the rear fuselage, tail parts, and electronics.
Over recent weeks, Israeli forces have been using F-35 jets to undertake strikes on Gaza.
In November, the Israeli military’s Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, visited its air force fleet of F-35 jets and declared that Israel “knows how to reach anywhere in the Middle East. We are already a month into the war, hitting Hamas very, very hard…, destroying Hamas’ infrastructure in Gaza”.
He added that the F-35s carry “very heavy munitions” and provide “a very good connection between what the [ground] force needs and what the plane knows to give”.
The Israel Defence Forces boast that the F-35 can hold up to 8.16 tons of ammunition – the equivalent of 4.5 African elephants.
BAE Systems’ share price rose in July 2023 following an Israeli order to expand its F-35 fleet to 75 jets – an increase of 50%. The total value of the F-35 contracts to BAE Systems since 2010 may be in excess of £1bn.
Amid the war on Gaza, BAE Systems’ share price rose again, with investors anticipating a gold rush for arms firms supplying Israel with advanced military technology.
By 16 November 2023, the company’s stock price was up by around 9% compared with 6 October – the day before Hamas militants attacked Israel.
The F-35 parts are sold to Israel through open licences, a system which allows Britain to transfer unlimited and unspecified quantities of military items to buyers abroad. The UK government has granted 57 such licences to Israel over the past eight years, with ten of those issued in 2022.
The UK government justifies the continued sale of arms to Israel by claiming that Israel “has made it clear that it will abide by international humanitarian law”, adding that Britain “has the toughest arms regulations anywhere in the world”.
A number of parliamentarians are also likely to reap the benefits of Britain’s expanding commercial interests in Israel.
It has been reported that six Conservative MPs have shares or close family members with shares in BP – David Duguid, Victoria Prentis, Desmond Swayne, Harriett Baldwin, Bob Blackman, and Diana Johnson.
Five of those MPs voted against the parliamentary motion for a ceasefire in Gaza while Johnson abstained, raising questions regarding conflicts of interests.
Two MPs – Jesse Norman and Christopher Chope – reportedly have shares in BAE Systems. Both voted against a ceasefire in Gaza.
Other British companies may profit from Israel’s war on Gaza.
As War on Want found in 2022, British financial institutions such as Barclays hold significant shares in “companies whose weapons, components, and military technology have been used in unlawful violence against Palestinians”, such as BAE Systems and Boeing.
All seven Conservative MPs who reportedly have shares in Barclays – Chope, Robert Goodwill, Jonathan Djanogly, Heather Wheeler, Ian Levy, David Evennett, and Steve Double – also voted against a ceasefire.