Egypt and Israel Send a Message to Turkey, and to the U.S.

February 23, 2021 | Lazar Berman
About the author: Lazar Berman, news editor at the Times of Israel and a reserve infantry officer in the IDF, has written for the Journal of Strategic Studies, Commentary, and other publications.

On Sunday, Tarek el-Molla, Egypt’s minister of petroleum and mineral resources, paid an official visit to Israel—the first visit from an Egyptian minister since 2016. Molla also met with Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah. Lazar Berman comments:

Israel and Egypt agreed Sunday to link up Israel’s Leviathan natural-gas field with Egyptian liquid-natural-gas facilities through an underwater pipeline, from which the gas can be exported to European markets.

Analysts say that one of the key purposes of the meetings—beyond the energy discussions—was to send a message to Turkey, and its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. For the better part of a decade, Turkey has been engaged in a bitter rivalry with Egypt that began when Erdogan backed the Muslim Brotherhood after the group was ousted from power in Cairo.

In the Mediterranean, Egypt has aligned itself with Greece and Cyprus, which accuse Turkey of illegally drilling for natural gas in their exclusive economic zones. Together with Israel, the countries formed the EastMed Gas Forum, headquartered in Cairo, and have conducted joint military exercises.

The visit was also meant to send a message to the Biden administration. Egypt anticipates increased pressure from the U.S. government over its human-rights record. . . . The more Egypt can present itself as a source of stability and cooperation in the region, the logic goes, the less [such] pressure it will face from the U.S.

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