An investigation by Globes found that demands by Beduin tribes in the Sinai for protection money from the Egyptian government is the primary motive for the attacks on gas pipelines in the peninsula. The Egyptian government is refusing to capitulate the Beduins' demands for now, but neither is it rushing to complete the defense works on the pipelines against more attacks.
Experts believe that Egypt will not seriously consider resuming gas deliveries to Israel until a new government is in place.
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The Egyptian gas pipeline network in Sinai delivers natural gas to Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, as well as to Egyptian factories in the El Arish area. There were at least ten attacks on the pipelines during 2011, resulting is the suspension of deliveries for more than 200 days.
Israeli sources estimate that the cost of the stoppage to the economy could reach NIS 15 billion if Egyptian gas deliveries do not resume before the Tamar field comes on line toward mid-2013. The estimate is based on Israel Electric Corporation's need to buy more expensive diesel and industrial oil instead of natural gas. This cost will be borne by Israeli consumers through electricity rate hikes, which will probably be spread out over several years.
Three demands rejected out of hand
Information obtained by Globes indicates that Egyptian government representatives have held several meetings with Beduin tribal leaders in northern Sinai over the past few months. The Beduin made three demands at these meetings: money to the tribes on whose land the pipelines passes, on the basis of a fixed fee per kilometer; employment of Beduin guards to protect the pipelines and facilities; and the release Beduin prisoners in Egyptian jails. The Egyptian government has rejected all three demands out of hand.
At the same time, the Egyptian government is building defenses at weak
points along the pipeline network, which is owned by the
government-owned Egyptian Natural Gas Company (GASCO). This project
involves 26 facilities along the network of pipelines, which themselves
are below ground and safe from simple attacks. The defense plan includes
guards, as well as fences and cameras at all the facilities.
In practice, the pipeline defense plan is stuck, and only a few
facilities are protected, because of Egypt's well-known bureaucratic
inertia and power-struggles between the Army and the Ministry of
Petroleum and Mineral Resources, each of which is trying to pin the
responsibility on the other. As a result, Chairman of the Supreme
Council of the Armed Forces General Muhammad Tintawi, Egypt's actual
ruler, has to approve everything.
Israeli officials believe that there will be no serious discussion about
resuming gas deliveries to Israel until a stable Egyptian government is
established. Since the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak in
February 2011, Egypt has had three governments.
Former Egyptian Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmi, who approved the gas
export agreement with Israel, is now in jail, after being convicted of
selling the gas for too little. Hussain Salem, a partner of Yosef Maiman
in East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG) shareholder, was sentenced two
months ago in absentia to seven years in prison on similar charges.