OCCUPIED JERUSALEM - Egypt's decision to scrap a gas export deal with Israel has sent shockwaves into the Jewish state, amid worries about the move's impact on a peace treaty between the two countries.
I see this as very serious, Knesset Member and former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Army Radio on Sunday, April 22.
The existence of the pipeline supported the peace treaty.
In a surprise move on Sunday, Egypt cancelled a 15-year contract to supply Israel with natural gas.
The accord with the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG), which exports the gas to Israel, was cancelled "because the company failed to respect conditions stipulated in the contract," Mohamed Shoeib, head of the state-owned Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) said.
Under the controversial 2005 deal, Egypt exports 43 percent of gas supplies to Israel, which depends on the Egyptian gas to generate 40 percent of its electricity.
Fearing further damage to its troubled relations with Cairo, Israel downplayed the impact of the deal scrap on its relations with Egypt.
"The deal to supply gas is not part of the peace deal, but it is an important commercial deal that was an expression of the stable ties between the states," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israeli public radio in an interview from Baku.
"The unilateral cancellation of the deal is not a good sign, and we hope that this dispute will be resolved like any other commercial dispute, without taking it to the political realm."
The $2.5-billion deal, which has sparked public anger in Egypt, was signed in 2005 and was supposed to run 15 years, according to the website of Israel's Foreign Ministry.
Reflecting public anger, a pipeline in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula which carries gas to Israel and Jordan has been attacked 14 times since the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak last year, with the latest attack on April 9.
Unlike Israel, the deal cancellation won public praise in Egypt.
If there's a contract that's breached, should we continue even if the contract gives the Egyptian side the right to terminate the contract? Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg on Monday.
The move also won plaudits from Egypt presidential hopefuls Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and Hamdeen Sabahi.
The Egyptian people do not want to export gas to Israel and the president must act according to their wishes, said Aboul Fotouh.
I hope this decision is permanent in order for Egypt to better guard its national resources, said Sabahi on his Twitter account.
Egypt's opposition blocs, including the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the public opinion have called for Cairo to revoke the deal, effective since 2008.
The controversial deal with Israel has been repeatedly challenged in Egyptian courts on the grounds of its secretive clauses and because it was done without parliamentary consultation.
A court imposed an injunction on the deal, in a move ignored by Mubarak's government.A higher court overturned the freeze in 2010, on condition the government regulate the quantity and price of gas exported.