When Israel invaded and bombed Gaza without mercy for three weeks in December 2008 and January 2009, the energy its army needed to fuel its assault was provided by Egypt.
This stark reality is one of the points made in Egypt’s Lost Power, an investigative documentary broadcast today by Al Jazeera and available worldwide online (above).
It provides new insight into how Egypt’s vast natural gas wealth was stolen through collusion by Israel and cronies of the former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.
The documentary focuses on the role of Hussein Salem, a close associate of Mubarak, and Samih Fahmy, a protege of Salem, who was installed as Egypt’s energy minister in the early 2000s.
Together with former Israeli Mossad agent Yossi Maiman they set up a company called Eastern Mediterranean Gas (EMG) that had the sole right to sell Egypt’s gas to Israel.
Maiman hired former Mossad boss Shabtai Shavit to become a senior EMG executive.
“Too good to be true”While internationally, gas sold for up to $12.60 per million British Thermal Units (MBTU), Egypt was selling its gas to EMG for as little as $1.50 – a scandalously low price that cost Egypt $11 billion in lost revenue.
The Israeli energy minister at the time, Yosef Paritzky, opposed the deal, telling Al Jazeera that the price Israel was paying was “too good to be true.”
The arrangement, he said, “was so covert, it was so behind the scenes, it was so untransparent that it called for attention.”
But the deal went ahead with the approval of Mubarak and Ariel Sharon, then Israeli prime minister.
Another company, MIDOR, also set up by Egyptian and Israeli intelligence and military interests, established two Israeli-owned gas refineries in Egypt.
The prices are still officially secret, but documents obtained by Al Jazeera have cast unprecedented light on these shady deals.
Eventually, the price was raised to about $3.00 per MBTU but this was still far below the market price. EMG would then sell the gas on to Israel for as little as $4.50 and Salem and his Israeli partner Maiman reaped billions in profits.
Egypt may lose billions moreFollowing the February 2011 removal of Mubarak, the pipeline carrying the gas to Israel was blown up more than a dozen times until, in 2012, the Egyptian army put a stop to the gas flow, reneging on the EMG deal.
But now Maiman and EMG are taking Egypt to international arbitration courts where they will have a strong case for breach of contract. Egypt could end up owing the company – and Israel – billions more.
Former Mossad agent Yossi Maiman made billions from corrupt gas deals that robbed Egyptians of their resources.
The accusation is credible: it was widely reported at the time that severe shortages of fuel – a chronic complaint of Egyptians under Morsi – miraculously cleared up within days of Morsi’s removal.
Sisi restorationIsraeli analysts, including Paritzky, see the return of Egypt’s military to power under General Abdulfattah al-Sisi as a good thing. “The military in Egypt are our partners in collaboration in this region,” he says.
Sisi is moving quickly to a situation that could see the money from Egypt’s gas begin to flow back into the pockets of Salem, Maiman and other corrupt cronies.
And what’s worse: due to the horrific mismanagement of Egypt’s energy sector (it faces liabilities of up to $20 billion), Egypt will now likely be importing gas from Israel’s newly-discovered maritime fields.
One of Sisi’s first moves was to open Egypt to p