Jackpot: Huge natural gas reserves found off Israeli coast

Good news indeed, although I can’t shake the nagging feeling that tossing another huge energy find into the fray of Middle Eastern geopolitics might end up having unfortunate unintended consequences.

You know me. Always the pessimist!

On Wednesday, the frenzy got fresh fuel: Noble confirmed its earlier estimates that the field contains 16 trillion cubic feet of gas—making it the world’s biggest deepwater gas find in a decade, with enough reserves to supply Israel’s gas needs for 100 years.

It’s still early days, and getting all that gas out of the seabed may be more difficult than it seems today. But Noble and its partners think the field could hold enough gas to transform Israel, a country precariously dependent on others for energy, into a net-energy exporter.

Such a transformation could potentially alter the geopolitical balance of the Mideast, giving Israel a new economic advantage over its enemies…

Iran, Israel’s arch-nemesis and Hezbollah’s chief backer, has also weighed in. Tehran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Qazanfar Roknabadi, last month claimed that three-quarters of the Leviathan field actually belongs to Lebanon.

Mr. Landau, the Israeli infrastructure minister, denied the claim and warned Lebanon that Israel wouldn’t hesitate to use force to protect its mineral rights.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the entire zone may have reserves of 122 trillion cubic feet of gas, which is half the proven reserves of the entire United States. To entice you into reading the whole piece, there’s a fun subplot in there about Israel clamoring to retroactively raise its royalty rates on oil companies — which had traditionally been unusually low — in order to reap a windfall from the find, with the State Department (and Bill Clinton!) lobbying hard against it on behalf of the local American energy company. Believe it, my friends: Prominent Democrats, including the diplomatic arm of the Obama administration, coming out hard against … energy taxes.

Exit question: What will Israel get in return when it inevitably gives up its hugely lucrative claim to the gas field as part of some tenuous peace deal? A promise from Hezbollah not to kill every last Jew in the Holy Land?