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Israel Concerned About Gas Supplies After Egyptian Pipeline Blast

  • Robert Berger

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, convenes the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, February 6, 2011.

An Israeli Cabinet minister says Israel should speed up development of its own natural gas fields in the wake of a pipeline explosion in Egypt that led to a temporary interruption of supplies to Israel and Jordan.

Egyptian state media and local government officials said they suspected sabotage in Saturday's pipeline explosion at a gas terminal in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula. Gas flow was temporarily shut down.

The incident has Israel worried. Egypt supplies about 40 percent of Israel's natural gas, most of it used in power stations. The gas deal is a cornerstone of peaceful relations, but Israel fears Egyptian instability in the wake of massive anti-government protests could render the agreement worthless.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the issue at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

He said Israel was prepared for such scenarios, but with shockwaves jolting the region, Israel must seek alternative sources of energy.

Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau is seeking government loans and tax breaks to speed up development of a huge natural gas field discovered off Israel's Mediterranean coast a few months ago. He said that, in the wake of events in Egypt, Israel must become energy independent.

"We always hope for the good, in terms of the peace agreement that we have and with the gas commercial contract that we have, but we always have to prepare ourselves for the bad case," said Landau.

Uncertainty over the gas pipeline points to a broader concern: Israel fears that if a hostile government comes to power in Egypt, it might cancel the 32-year-old peace treaty with Israel.