Despite major concerns being raised about the future of peace between Egypt and Israel in the wake of Egypt’s decision to terminate the a contract to provide natural gas to the Jewish State, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday that he hopes the dispute will be solved in a business environment, and that relations between the two countries will return to normal.
“We want to believe this is a commercial dispute, and not a political one,” Lieberman told Army Radio on Monday. “The peace agreement is important to Israel, and no less so to Egypt.”
On Sunday, Egypt announced that it would no longer provide natural gas to Israel, a $2.5 billion, 15 year arrangement made between Israel and then-president Hosni Mubarak in June 2005, but predated and bolstered by the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, which stipulates that the countries will trade normally for products such as oil.
Egyptian officials say the decision to stop supplying gas to Israel was a commercial one and that Israel has not paid for gas Egypt has been sending. Israeli officials say Israel was up to date in payments, and paying a fair price for the product. “EMG (East Mediterranean Gas) considers the termination attempt unlawful and in bad faith,” said Ampal-American Israel Corp., which owns 12.5 percent of East Mediterranean Gas .
The provision of gas by Egypt to Israel has been mired in controversy and difficulties, with Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic party representatives decrying the agreement, and the pipeline between the countries being bombed 14 times in Sinai since the Arab Spring took hold of Egypt in January 2011. The latest attack was on April 8. Ampal has been in international arbitration to get compensation for the supply shortages it has suffered due to the attacks.
Though Israel has continued to function normally despite the frequent gas disruptions and the current halt in supply, electricity prices have risen significantly since the pipeline attacks began, and the possibility of periodic blackouts during the summer has risen. Prior to the attacks, 40% of Israeli electricity needs were being met by Egyptian gas.
The failure of the natural gas deal was viewed ominously by Israeli leaders on Sunday night, with the Finance Ministry calling Egypt’s actions “a dangerous precedent that casts clouds over the peace agreements and the atmosphere of peace between Egypt and Israel.”
Minister of Energy and Water Dr. Uzi Landau said that he instructed officials already two years ago to prepare for a halt in gas imports from Egypt.
Dr. Landau has spent the last few years in office preparing the country for energy independence, which is proving an even more vital strategy due to yesterday’s announcement in Egypt.Malkah Fleisher