Termination of Israeli-Egyptian natural gas agreement serves dangerous precedent (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Zvi Bar´el 04/23/12)
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Mohamed Shoeb, head of the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company,
announced Sunday evening, that the company will terminate the
agreement to provide natural gas to Israel, after a decision had been
made on Thursday, due to what he had termed “Israel’s repeated
breaching of the agreement.”
Shoeb, in interview on Al-Hayat television, stressed that the deal
termination was due to failure on the part of the Israeli side to
transfer the payments owed by Israel for some months and “had nothing
to do with the repeated attacks on the pipeline.”
Despite this announcement, the fact that Egypt´s ruling Supreme
Military Council and the Egyptian government hadn’t announced the
decision officially is puzzling, raising the question what is the
motive behind the decision and how was it decided.
It is possible the announcement was intended to pressure Israel into
calling off the lawsuit for compensation of $8 billion over Egyptian
failure to provide gas as promised. This theory agrees with the
announcement by diplomatic officials in Jerusalem that the decision
stemmed from a “business dispute.”
The fact that no official announcement was made may also indicate the
Egyptian government intends to issue a correction or completely deny
the announcement made by Shoeb.
Though, even if the Egyptian government denies the decision to
terminate the agreement, the fact that the company CEO made the
announcement, puts the deal in the limelight. If it turns out that
Egypt had really one-sidedly decided to terminate the agreement; it
may be a dangerous precedent indicating other agreements between
Egypt and Israel may also come to an end.
The sale of natural gas to Israel had been one of the main criticisms
the Egyptian opposition voiced against former Egyptian president
Mubarak, claiming that the price the Israeli company secured was
extremely low, cutting into Egypt’s national income.
Some have claimed the deal was made possible due to a bribe the
Egyptian partner Hussein Salam paid Mubarak’s family in order to win
the concession. Salam was indicted on this charge but fled Egypt and
Egyptian attempts to have him extradited weren´t succesful. Due to
this background the deal has come to symbolize Mubarak’s treason and
the corruption of his regime.
In addition, Bedouin in Sinai claim that the pipeline and its
infrastructure had been constructed on their land and they have yet
to be compensated as was promised. This is one of the reasons that
some of the Bedouin families are willing to damage the pipeline and
halt its activity.
After the revolution the agreement to sell Israel natural gas became
one of the charges Mubarak and his circle are being indicted for.
Egypt’s new leadership promised to look into the price Israel is
paying to see if a higher rate can be obtained.
On the other hand, the leadership of most of Egypt’s political
parties, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, had made it clear they
intend to “stand by all the agreements Egypt had signed in the past
including the Camp David Accord and the agreement to sell natural
gas,” as Khairat al-Shater, a onetime presidential candidate and
other party leaders had said.
Egypt´s ruling Supreme Military Council and the Egypt’s interim
government also made it clear to Israel and the United States that
all agreements will be kept. This commitment was perceived as a
condition for a continued working relation with Israel and the U.S.,
relations that radical organizations and terrorists working in the
Sinai are trying to undermine.
The flow of natural gas to Israel and Jordan also symbolized the
regime’s ability to control the Sinai and ward off terror
organizations attempts to dictate Egypt’s domestic and foreign
policies. Both the gas company and Egypt’s security forces have spent
great efforts and manpower in securing the pipeline, but after 14
explosions and the failure to get Sinai’s Bedouin to cooperate, it
seems that Egypt had given up.
Thus, even if it turns out that a business dispute and not the failed
fight to keep the flow of natural gas flowing against the saboteurs
in the Sinai, are what caused the termination of the deal, Egypt’s
regime may find itself in the midst of a political storm, criticized
for neglecting the nation’s vital interests and losing its grip on
eastern peninsula, this time because of the ending of the deal.
With this in mind, it seems likely that the Supreme Military Council
will instruct the Egyptian natural gas company to “reconsider” its
decision to avoid the possibility that the cancelation of the deal
will become a tool with which the opposition can criticize the
regime. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 04/23/12)
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