Egypt moves $15 billion closer to Israel

Abdulfattah al-Sisi’s Egypt is becoming increasingly dependent on Israel. (Egyptian President’s Office)

Slowly, surely and increasingly openly, Abdulfattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian president, is moving his country closer to Israel.

This week, it was a $15 billion gas deal that will see Delek, an Israeli company, supply Egypt with natural gas over a 10-year period.

A “joyous day,” Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, proclaimed when the news broke.

“We have scored a key goal,” echoed al-Sisi a few days later as he tried to distance his government from the deal by emphasizing, in what the egypt today website characterized as an “important speech,” that this was purely a private sector deal.

The news comes not long after revelations in the US press that Israel’s military is helping its Egyptian counterpart fight an insurgency in the Sinai, including by flying bombing sorties over the impoverished area.

Relations don’t grow much more intimate than when one party invites the other to violate its sovereignty, and this does not promise to be an equal relationship. Rather, Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with traditionally its most powerful military, is growing ever more reliant on Israel in two crucial areas: defense and energy.

This dependence bodes ill for Egyptians, who will find their politics circumscribed by Israel’s, and Palestinians, for whom any normalization of Israel’s role and position in the region and the world is a normalization of occupation and oppression that shows no sign of ending.

Anxious autocrats

Palestinians are increasingly finding their struggle obstructed not only by Israel but by autocratic Arab regimes whose legitimacies have been thoroughly shaken by the events of the so-called Arab Spring and who now fear the shadows where those Shia/ Muslim Brothers/ progressive democrats (all three of them)/ Jihadis/ Bahai/ Kurds or that fellow down the street with the shifty gaze all lurk.

Anxious autocrats are low hanging fruit for Israel, who can offer the assurance of a highly primed military that sees regular action in neighboring countries and over occupied Palestinian and Syrian territory while enjoying the seemingly unending and unbending support of the US. The cost, of course, is acquiescence with Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians, silence in the face of continued settlement expansion and acceptance of the annexation of Jerusalem and whatever other territory Israel might set its heart on.

Egypt’s autocrat has more reason for concern than most. Al-Sisi came to power in a military coup that ousted Egypt’s first and so far only democratically elected president. He has held on to power by force and by outlawing the main opposition Muslim Brotherhood. So tenuous does he feel his grip on power to be that he has even had to threaten and cajole potential rivals from within Egypt’s ruling class to drop any thoughts of candidacy in an upcoming presidential poll that may still shatter his own 96.91 percent record win in 2014.

In addition to the Sinai in the north, Egyptian national security interests are threatened in all directions: there is trouble with Sudan to Egypt’s south, an ongoing civil war in Libya to Egypt’s west, while Ethiopia’s plans for a Nile dam has also angered Cairo.

With friends like these

Egypt is vulnerable for the reasons all autocracies are. Rulers have no popular legitimacy, systems are unwieldy and elites are beholden to foreign interests and the military. The weaker a ruler, the more unwieldy the system and the more beholden the elites. Popular support for Palestinians has little impact as a result, perhaps especially in Egypt, protest weary and embittered as people there may understandably be.

Al-Sisi may still feel the need to distance his government from a lucrative gas deal with Israel, but that is probably because he wants to be loved rather than because he fears any serious public backlash.

Warming Egyptian-Israeli relations are part of a new reality forming in the region under which Palestinians are very much seen as pawns in a bigger game. What the bigger game is depends on where your vantage point is. It looks different from Riyadh than from Cairo, Doha, Ankara or Tehran.

And with red lines crossed every day in Syria and Yemen, it is little surprise that the days when Arab leaders might feel some shame at abandoning even the pretense of support for the Palestinian struggle are long gone.




I thought that most Arabs and the world know it that most Arab leaders are appointed and conferred support by Tel Aviv


I do think that a stable region is in everyone's interest. We need to work together (Arabs and Jews) to secure a peaceful future for everyone.


You are not alone... Everyone does, but the devil is in the arrangements, with who on who's land, resources, who taking the water, and this is not even touching the no go zones of religion, confessions and tribe.. Tell us how we need to arrange the details so that we will have peace, not that you want it.. What does your vision of peace look like?


What is needed is for the Murder Inc Imperialist Crime Syndicate to exit the area post haste. We will see good things start to fall into place in short order after that.


In the spirit of amity and cooperation you so sensibly invoke, you'll no doubt endorse the view that a stable, peaceful future will commence with Israel removing its jackbooted heel from the necks of Palestinians.

picture send the Murder Inc imperialist crime syndicate back to whence it came. That is the best chance for peace.


No surprise, Sisi is their own puppet playing the same games like the others. The Zionist regime with its own plan of subjugating for the greater Illegal occupying state does require such measurements. Interfering in Sinai, supporting militia group in Sudan, Ethiopia’s plan for Nile dam and much more come in the package for the Israeli evil plan. When it comes to the criminal Zionist state, they will do everything but the world including the Arab leaders will continue to act like dummies for unified forces of occupation. I see everyone is a loser except the peoples of Palestine who continue their struggle against the occupiers.


"Egypt is vulnerable for the reasons all autocracies are. Rulers have no popular legitimacy, systems are unwieldy and elites are beholden to foreign interests and the military. The weaker a ruler, the more unwieldy the system and the more beholden the elites. Popular support for Palestinians has little impact as a result, perhaps especially in Egypt, protest weary and embittered as people there may understandably be."
So kinda like Abbas? has maintained power with no elections. Maintains power as an elite himself. Most likely amassed a fortune on the backs of the Palestinian people? Maybe focus on his illegitimacy as a leader and less on what Israel is doing with other countries.


The more Israelis, Egyptians and Palestinians are economically codependant, the greater chance of a peaceful resolution. We need more deals that make the cost of war greater than the price of peace.


He's on this thread, too. He just wants everyone to cooperate and get along. And how can that be a bad thing?

Nevertheless, since you employed the term, the condition of becoming "codependent" is regarded in clinical circles as an extremely unhealthy one. Perhaps you meant interdependent, which at least posits equality between the parties, although in this instance the suggestion that Palestine stands on an equal footing with its Israeli colonizer is absurd. Please tell me how Palestinians can be expected to interact on an equal economic footing with Israel, while their land is stolen, their homes demolished, their children abducted in night raids. The horrific siege of Gaza intensifies, schools and hospitals are periodically bombed, movement of goods and of people interdicted, populations put to flight, their crops ruined and cut down by illegal settlers, and a complete system of religious-based legalized apartheid has been imposed on an entire people by a western-backed military juggernaut? No, if you want to see fruitful agreements take the place of conflict, you'll stand up loudly and clearly for the rights of Palestinians. You'll support the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel for its ongoing defiance of international humanitarian law. And you'll begin to read the news on this site from the perspective of someone for whom the attainment of justice is the only worthwhile "deal".


The whole world through the UN should ensure that any proceeds from offshore energy developments are channeled into a Palestinian compensation fund.

Omar Karmi

Omar Karmi is an independent journalist and former Jerusalem and Washington, DC, correspondent for The National newspaper.