September 18, 2021

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Development of gas agreements between Egypt and Israel Who will be affected and who will benefit?

Energy specialists emphasized that the development of cooperation between Egypt and Israel on Mediterranean gas is primarily for the benefit of Israel, at a time when Egypt seeks from behind the agreement to transform into a regional center for liquefied gas, and the Palestinian Gaza Strip receives some benefits from the agreement with conditions.

Egyptian Minister of Petroleum Tariq Al-Mulla agreed with Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, during his meeting last Sunday in Tel Aviv, to work on a governmental agreement to link the “Leviathan” gas field in Israel with natural gas liquefaction units in Egypt through the marine pipeline.

A statement by the Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum confirmed that the meeting of Mullah Steinitz witnessed talks on “supporting joint cooperation in the energy field” to establish a coherent and strong energy infrastructure in the eastern Mediterranean region, with the aim of “maximizing natural gas resources and reserves in the region.”

The two ministers discussed a number of different opportunities for energy independence for the Palestinians through several projects, such as developing the Gaza marine field, establishing an electric power plant in Jenin, and supplying natural gas to the Palestinians.

Netanyahu is on the line

The Israel Arabic page on Facebook indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had received the Egyptian minister at the prime minister’s residence.

At the outset of the meeting, Netanyahu welcomed Mullah, saying, “Please convey my warm greetings to my friend His Excellency President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. This is an important day that represents the continuous cooperation between us in the energy field and in many other fields.”

He added, “We believe that a new era of peace and prosperity is currently prevailing (…) This naturally started with the historic peace agreement signed between Egypt and Israel, but this now turns into what can improve the economic conditions of all peoples of the region.”

The prime minister added, “We believe that this is a huge opportunity to achieve regional cooperation between Egypt, Israel and other countries. We are forming a regional energy center. Together, we will be able to provide not only our needs but the needs of many other countries as well.”

The Egyptian minister replied, “Mr. Prime Minister Netanyahu, thank you for receiving us and for the invitation. We and Minister Steinitz embarked several years ago on expanding cooperation in the energy field, which was strengthened through the formation of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum.”

Hebrew affairs journalist Sarah Sharif says that weeks ago reports spoke of “Netanyahu’s visit to Egypt,” and then nothing happened, as a visit was actually scheduled to take place, and Netanyahu asked to visit Egypt, provided that it took place before the elections scheduled in Israel next March, and he paid it Strongly to help him win votes in the elections.

And she continued: As for the talk behind the scenes, it revolved around that Sisi had set a condition to receive Netanyahu, which was “providing something for the Palestinian cause”, such as declaring commitment to the two states, and sources close to Netanyahu refused to comment on the veracity of what was said.

The journalist emphasized – on her Facebook page – that the visit of the Egyptian Minister of Energy on Sunday to Israel cannot be separated from this context.

In the interest of Israel

Khaled Fouad, a political researcher and specialist in energy affairs and Middle East issues, says that the Egyptian-Israeli cooperation in the field of energy is old and goes back to the Egyptian gas export deal during the era of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2005, stressing that the current cooperation greatly serves Israeli interests and does not serve Egypt in the long run.

And he continued – speaking to Al-Jazeera Net – that despite the Egyptian gas discoveries, it is expected that Egyptian self-sufficiency in gas will end within years, and this means that Egypt relies for part of its domestic consumption on gas imports from Israel, which represents a threat to the Egyptian national security given The nature of the relations between the two sides.

Egypt, since March until last October, only exported two shipments abroad in July and October, and consequently most of the quantities of Israeli gas (intended for export last year) flowed to the local market, which means economic losses for Egypt – according to the spokesman – In light of the fact that the discovery of the “Zohr” field has made Egypt self-sufficient and has a surplus that can be exported through the liquefaction plants in “Idku and Damietta” in the north.

The researcher pointed out that the stated goal of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum is cooperation and coordination between the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean in exporting and importing gas, and the fact that the first beneficiary of the forum is Israel, which seeks to export its gas by opening paths with the forum countries, including Egypt and Jordan. Aviv is partnering with Cyprus in some fields and is seeking to establish an “East Med” line with Greece and Italy.

He stressed that Israel is reaping economic and geopolitical profits at the expense of Egypt and the countries of the region by receiving Emirati oil via the Eilat Ashkelon line, which affects the revenues of the Suez Canal and reduces the importance of the canal and directly reflects on Egypt’s national security and importance, as 10% of global oil and gas trade passes through this channel.

The researcher said that the serious endeavor to establish the “East Med” pipeline directly reflects on Egypt’s positioning as a regional platform for gas export. If established, the pipeline provides an opportunity to supply Israel with part of Europe’s gas needs in an easier, faster and cheaper way than the Egyptian liquefaction stations.

Turkey and Palestine

A political researcher specializing in energy affairs and Middle East issues explained that the area of ​​cooperation between Egypt and Israel does not directly affect Turkey, but the East Mediterranean Gas Forum – which brings together several countries in the eastern Mediterranean, including Egypt and Israel, not including Turkey – appears to be an alliance to confront Ankara.

The main problem for Ankara is related to the demarcation of maritime borders and the delineation of exclusive economic zones with Greece and Cyprus. The disagreement here is over vast areas that Turkey sees within its maritime borders, and therefore it has the right to explore and extract oil and gas from them – in the opinion of the researcher – and therefore the forum in its current form contributes to deepening the crisis between Turkey on the one hand and Greece and Cyprus on the other hand.

As for the “Gaza Marine” gas field, which was discovered two decades ago, it has not been developed to extract gas reserves that exceed a trillion cubic feet due to the difficulties and obstacles imposed by the occupation authority, according to the researcher.

Of course, the exploitation and development of the “Gaza Marine” field can contribute to increasing the income of the Palestinian Authority and solving the electricity problems in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. However, the researcher added that this matter always remains linked to the political situation and the occupation’s desires in the continuation of the current situation and the use of the field card for negotiations. With the Palestinians.

The researcher specializing in energy affairs and Middle East issues expressed his expectation that the development of the field would not witness progress without an improvement in the negotiations file between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Egypt and the Palestinian Authority recently signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the development of a natural gas field within the Gaza Strip.