FOR once, there’s some good, positive news emerging from the troubled Middle East. This week, rather than terror attacks, aborted suicide-bombing attempts, threats and counter-threats, posturing, gamesmanship and alleged corruption, we report a partnership between Israel and Egypt that could galvanise the two countries’ ever-shaky relationship.
Israel is set to sell its Arab neighbour $12bn of natural gas over a 10-year period. This should guarantee better relations between the two countries which have ‘enjoyed’ a very fragile friendship, despite making peace in March, 1979. In nearly 40 years, that treaty has been adhered to, but the relationship has been decidedly frosty. Few Egyptians visit Israel as tourists, although there has been considerable tourism over the years in the other direction, particularly to Sinai, punctured only by Israeli government warnings not to visit the region, following terror attacks at resort hotels.
Jerusalem and Cairo have never enjoyed the same rapport which has existed between Israel and Jordan, but the prospect of the gas deal means that Egypt will be pretty well reliant on the Jewish state for a vast proportion of its energy and maintaining good relations would seem vital, under those circumstances. Cairo, on the whole, has adopted a fairly strict line on illegal tunnels to the Palestinian territories, since Egypt is itself not immune from attack by radicals and has always been uneasy about the presence of Palestinians within its own borders, which is why it has always refused to accommodate them. Co-operation on that front and between the two countries generally would always seem more sensible than peace, which has existed for nearly 40 years only in name.