Media comment on Egypt-Israel gas rift (BBC) British Broadcasting Company) 23 April 2012 Last updated at 14:39 GMT)
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The decision by the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company to cancel a
controversial deal which supplies Israel with natural gas at below-
market prices dominates Egyptian and Israeli media comment, with all
commentators noting political dimensions to the move that could have
significant consequences for bilateral relations.
Commercial or political?
The story broke too late on Sunday evening for the morning
newspapers, but Egyptian TV channels were full of analysts seeking to
explain the move.
State broadcasters followed the official line that this is a trade
dispute. Channel One TV hosted political analyst Mahmud Zahir on its
morning discussion programme. He firmly denied that the story
endangered the Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel, and
noted that the cancellation of the contract "could be reversed" at
any time if payment were received.
The official Nile News TV channel´s From Cairo programme interviewed
Ibrahim Issawi, a former deputy oil minister, who also emphasized the
commercial aspect of the decision.
In contrast, coverage on private Dream 2 TV was more strident, and
demanded clarification from the Egyptian military government about
what the decision means. A presenter described the Israeli reaction
as "hysterical", "outrageous" and "expressing a kind of uncontrolled
On its Sunday night 10 PM programme the presenter said "we want to
know the circumstances surrounding this decision, which was a wish
for some people and a nightmare for others".
Gen Samih Sayf al-Yazal told the programme that that an Israeli
warning to its citizens to leave Sinai three days earlier had been
a "pre-emptive move" after Israel had allegedly learned of Egypt´s
intention to suspend gas supplies. He said the cancellation was "in
response to popular wishes with respect to the gas issue. The
Egyptian people feel shocked about this contract, and feel that their
money has been plundered". He was sure that Egypt´s military
government, which has not commented so far, was consulted on the
decision. The Gas Holding Company "cannot take such a decision
without informing the country´s leaders", Gen Al-Yazal concluded.
Prominent Egyptian Facebook and blog commentators noted the official
reticence. The 6th of April Youth Movement´s Facebook page reported
the news with suspicion: "Ten minutes and we will find a denial of
the news from another part of the leadership."
On her English-language blog "Egyptian Chronicles", Zeinobia
commented, "Ok news is contradictory in Cairo. There are military
sources as well as the minister of oil in Egypt that have denied the
news that they cancelled the agreement to export gas to Israel while
there are confirmed sources saying that Cairo has cancelled the
Twitter users were generally enthusiastic, Leftwing Nasserite
presidential candidate Hamdin Sabbahi tweeted: "I hail the decision
to stop exporting Egyptian gas to the Zionist entity. We hope the
implementation of the decision will continue out of respect for the
will of the people and the judiciary´s rulings, and in order to
protect our national wealth."
Israeli public broadcasters concentrated on statements by Israeli
officials, in particular Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman´s call
for Egypt to reverse its decision so that the commercial disagreement
might not turn into a "political issue".
Press comment was gloomier, with a general view that relations can
only deteriorate further. Zvi Barel in liberal Ha´aretz said that "if
it turns out that Egypt has really unilaterally decided to terminate
the agreement, it may be a dangerous precedent that indicates other
agreements between Egypt and Israel may also come to an end".
Amir Ben-David in mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot also saw a threat
to the Camp David accords: "This move could turn out to be a first,
fundamental step in abrogating the peace agreements."
Boaz Bismuth in the pro-government freesheet Yisrael Hayom went even
further, saying that "our southern neighbour could turn into an enemy
state much earlier than expected. Egypt will no longer supply us with
gas, but will continue to supply us, regrettably, with other
combustible material". (© BBC MMXII 04/23/12)
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