Israel, Europe bolster energy alliance as they look to isolate Russia

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The European Union touted its relationship with Israel on Tuesday as a leading contributor in its push to become energy independent from Russia. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during a trip to Israel that Russia’s war in Ukraine has heightened the global threat to national sovereignty, democratic values and climate change. 

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, left, poses for a photograph with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid before their meeting in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 13, 2022.  (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, Pool / AP Newsroom)

"In a war against democracy, we all have a stake, she said speaking from Ben-Gurion University. "The Kremlin has used our dependency on Russian fossil fuels to blackmail us. And since the beginning of the war, Russia has deliberately cut off its gas supplies to Poland, to Bulgaria, to Finland, to Dutch companies, to Danish companies, in retaliation for our support to Ukraine."

The EU announced earlier this month that it will block 90 percent of Russia's oil exports by the end of the year and vowed to address the additional 10 percent as quickly as possible – a pledge that has left many wondering where Europe's energy supplies will come from instead. 

"The Kremlin's behavior only strengthened our resolve to break free of our dependency on Russian fossil fuels," von der Leyen said. "We are now exploring ways to step up our energy cooperation with Israel."

The EU and Israel have looked to launch the world's longest and deepest underwater power cable that will connect power grids from Israel to Cyprus and Greece.

E.ON, Europe’s largest operator of energy networks, rejected demands to shut down the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline as part of sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine, the company told Rheinische Post newspaper on Monday.  (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File / AP Newsroom)

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The EuroAsia Interconnector, which was first launched in 2010 and is expected to be completed by 2025, will utilize more "efficient methods" in power generation by relying on natural gas and renewable energy resources. 

"This will, over time, be electrification from renewable energies," she said. "That is where the investment has to go into. You have an abundance of these natural resources to produce renewable energy."

A second Israel-EU initiative, known as the EastMed Pipeline which is expected to be completed as early as 2025, will also funnel gas and clean hydrogen throughout the eastern Mediterranean.

"This is an investment in both Europe's and Israel's energy security," von der Leyen said. "This infrastructure will also contribute to decarbonizing our energy mix."

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The EU president said the alliance not only exemplified "democracies sticking together" amid the greatest threat to Europe since World War II, but against the threat of climate change. 

"This is the big looming crisis in the background," she added. 

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