Unstable gas supply puts more strain on Israel-Egypt relations

Sunday, July 17, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

Last week the pipeline that Egypt uses to supply natural gas to both Israel and Jordan was bombed for the fourth time since the pro-democracy revolution that ousted former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.

Israel's purchase of natural gas from Egypt was an important part of growing economic ties between the two nations stemming from the Camp David Accords. It supplied Israel with a relatively inexpensive and clean energy alternative, and brought in significant revenue for Egypt.

But energy industry experts say the latest explosion did serious damage to the pipeline, and it could be some time before the flow of natural gas resumes. And even then, it is likely only a matter of time until the next bombing.

That has Israelis thinking that maybe the time has come to stop relying on Egypt for such a large portion of its energy needs.

In the short term, Israel will get by using "dirty" energy sources like gasoline and diesel. Looking to the future, Israel's own enormous offshore natural gas finds could easily replace what the Jewish state was buying from Egypt.

But that won't bode well for Israel-Egypt relations that are already starting to strain as the Muslim Brotherhood takes an increasinly prominent role in the future of Egyptian politics.

"The most important economic connection between Israel and Egypt is eroding," National Infrastrucures Minister Uzi Landau told Army Radio last week.

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