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Tel Aviv: Jumping into the unknown

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives an address from his office in Jerusalem on 3 April 2019, announcing that the remains of Sergeant First Class Zachary Baumel, a soldier missing since the 1982 Lebanon war, had been returned to the country. [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images]

Since political matters, especially relations between countries, are not coincidental, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s keenness on participating in the celebration held by the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv of the July 1952 Revolution, carries many messages not only to the Egyptians, but to the Arab region in general. Unfortunately, matters in the area have quickly developed into completing the step of Arab normalisation with Israel. While this is not the first time Israeli officials attend the celebration, as they participated at the 2016 celebration, which was the first celebration held by the embassy since 2009, a deliberate violation of protocol, it is, by all standards, the most important. Perhaps the first message is to Gamal Abdel Nasser himself, whose revolution gained legitimacy because its primary goals were to fight colonialism. I genuinely believe that most pessimists, including Abdel Nasser himself, did not think the day would come when he’d see an Egyptian embassy in Israel, after all of the pure blood of thousands of Egyptians was shed in the wars with Israel in 1956, 1967, and after his death in 1973, and that Netanyahu would attend a celebration of his revolution in Egypt.

Another message Netanyahu wanted to send with his attendance of the celebration is regarding the relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv, which has reached the level of sending two Egyptian helicopters to help extinguish fires across Israel last May. His attendance marked a new era for these relations, as Netanyahu spoke about the flow of Israeli gas to Egypt, which is due to increase in four months as part of a trial project.

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The significance of this step is that Israel, along with Washington, is promoting economic cooperation as the first step to accept it within the Arab region, and this indicates that Cairo will be the beginning of this acceptance through the gas. Israel’s Energy Minister, Yuval Steinitz, said at the beginning of the year that Israel would begin exporting gas to Egypt in a few months as a significant step within Israel’s plans to sell its gas surplus abroad and improve its diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries. Steinitz also said Israel’s gas exports to Egypt are expected to reach 7 billion cubic metres a year for ten years, amounting to $15 billion.

The minister’s statements disprove the false claims of some that the gas exportation aims to liquefy Israel’s gas and instead raises an important question: Why is Egypt importing Israeli gas after announcing the discovery of the giant Zohr gas field in regional Egyptian waters? The total gas in place in Zohr is 30 trillion cubic feet, which is enough to cover Egypt’s gas needs. Also, how did Egypt go from being a source of gas for Israel until 2012, which stopped due to suspicious attacks on the gas line crossing through Sinai and therefore Egypt, was forced to pay several billions of dollars as a result of rulings against it? The first ruling was issued by the International Chamber of Commerce in Geneva, which stipulated that the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) must pay compensation to the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG) totalling to $288m. In EMG’s second case, it demanded that the Egyptian government pay $8 billion in compensation for halting gas supplies to Israel’s electric company. A settlement was reached in this matter, and Egypt agreed to pay $500 million over 8 and a half years in exchange for completing the deal to export Israeli gas to Egypt.

Cairo has taken measures that pose a significant danger to Egypt’s national security in the course of its relations with Israel after the Egyptian parliament rejected a proposal by an MP to ban Egyptian citizenship to those carrying Israeli or Palestinian citizenship. However, the latter has already been implemented, as the Arab states agreed not to grant Palestinians citizenship in countries hosting them to prevent the liquidation of the Palestinian identity. How about Israeli citizenship? Will we be seeing Israelis carrying Egyptian citizenship, after paying $10,000 and owning flat, occupying vital positions in Egypt in just a few years? This is a hazardous matter, but who is listening? Who is aware? Who understands this?

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Arab on 18 July 2019 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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