CAIRO: Egyptian gas will supply a fifth of Israel’s electricity in the coming decade according to the government-owned Israel Electricity Corp.
A pipeline pumping gas from Egypt was integrated into the Israeli network on Thursday, Reuters reported.
Initially, the Egyptian gas will supply power plants in the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Ashdod, enabling the state-owned company to increase its electricity production from natural gas, which currently stands at 20 percent, Reuters added.
The gas is being exported to Israel under the proviso of a 2005 memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries.
Opposition groups had been enraged by the decision to begin exporting gas to Israel.
The gas is being transported via a 100-km-long underwater pipeline from Al-Arish near the troubled Egypt-Gaza border to the Israeli port of Ashkelon. The source of the gas is a field in Northern Sinai.
A question on why Egypt is exporting gas to Israel for favorable prices went unanswered at the People’s Assembly (PA) in late March as government officials requested more time to prepare a response.
The gas is being supplied by a Cairo-based Egyptian-Israeli consortium called East Mediterranean Gas (EMG) which includes Egyptian businessman Hussein Salem and the head of Israeli multinational Merhav, Yossi Maiman.
EMG is the second largest supplier of gas to Israel, after the Yam Thetis consortium.
The local press reported on Friday that former MP representing the Democratic Front Party Mohamed Anwar Sadat (late President Sadat’s nephew) had announced the formation of a committee to organize a popular campaign against the gas deal.
The committee, made up of writers, intellectuals and energy experts, is set to convene this Monday to discuss the details of the campaign slated to begin on June 5, the anniversary of Egypt’s 1967 defeat against Israel in the Six-Day War, known as the Naksa (catastrophe).
The campaign is modelled on the recent popular uprising in Damietta against Ageium, a Canadian petrochemical plant deemed a health hazard by the residents.
Muslim Brotherhood MPs have called the exportation deal a “crime and want it stopped because of the blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza strip.
It is known that under the Israeli blockade, Gaza suffered from crippling fuel shortages. When hundreds of thousands of Palestinians descended on Rafah, Egypt last January one of the biggest items sold was Egyptian Solaar gas.
The Palestinian demand for energy was so huge that there was a complete fuel shortage in Rafah, Al-Arish and the surrounding areas for days.
Chairman of the Arab Socialist party Waheed Al Aqsari previously told Daily News Egypt, “This is refused totally and we cannot accept this sort of thing, exporting gas to a country that kills Palestinians and practices extreme racism against them. This is surrender to American influence.
The 2005 memorandum stipulated the provision of 1.7 billion cubic meters of gas over 15 years at a total cost of $2.5 billion. Another gas contract worth $2 billion over 15-20 years was signed in 2006 by EMG, this time with Dorad energy of Israel.
“The strange thing is that those who need this gas the most are the ones who are being killed in Palestine. We should be punishing them [Israel] for what they’re doing to the Palestinians but the opposite is happening, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mahmoud Ezzat previously told Daily News Egypt.
“We are giving them gas for favorable prices while denying it to those who need it most, he added.
Egypt’s gas production in 2007 totaled 62 billion cubic meters, 28.8 percent of which was exported.