Do power cuts serve Israeli interests?

The Egyptian government has some explaining to do after links have been made between its electricity cuts this summer and the sale of Egyptian natural gas to Israel.

When a 15-year deal to supply Egyptian natural gas to Israel was concluded five years ago, opposition parties and movements rejected it on both political and economic grounds. First, they argued that since Israel represents a menace to Egyptian national security it should not be supplied with such a strategic commodity. Second, they said the fixed-price agreement allows Israel to purchase gas at a discounted rate far below international prices, without giving Egypt any room to adjust prices in accordance with the global market.

But there is a third reason why we should reject this deal: The gas being exported to Israel is in fact needed to light our homes and operate our factories.

The Ministry of Electricity recently confessed that it adopted the current load-shedding policy after the Ministry of Petroleum reduced gas supplies to the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company by two percent in 2004–one year before Egypt signed the deal with Israel.

Egypt’s electricity grid runs mainly on natural gas or, as a less-efficient substitute, diesel. Reduced gas supplies and poor-quality alternatives have forced the government to intentionally engineer power outages, a policy which has caused damages that are yet to be assessed.

The efforts of Ibrahim Youssri, a lawyer and former ambassador to Algeria, as well as other Egyptians keen on protecting their country's interests culminated in a Supreme Administrative Court ruling last February to suspend gas exports to Israel. The court rejected the gas deal on economic grounds, saying that it lacked a mechanism to periodically review the quantities and price of gas delivered to Israel.

The court called for a regular review of Egyptian gas rates in light of global price fluctuations, with a view to protecting Egypt’s national interest. It further stated that Egyptian natural gas must be exported only after local needs have been satisfied.

The government's insistence on ignoring the Administrative Court’s ruling–which is final and binding–is unjustified and disrespectful to the judiciary.

The current power crisis has amply demonstrated that the government is delivering gas to Israel at the expense of local needs A court ruling is no longer necessary as a basis to demand the abolition of an unfair deal.

When the recent wildfires in Russia swallowed up the country’s wheat harvest, the Russian government immediately decided to halt its wheat exports. The decision was understandable since governments should not normally sell a locally-needed commodity to other countries–let alone to a long-standing enemy.

The Egyptian government should learn from this experience and immediately stop exporting our gas to Israel. Otherwise, it risks being perceived as granting privilege to Israeli interests over those of its own country.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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