Egypt court freezes gas exports to Israel
Israel says it does not expect interruption in supply
A Cairo court on Tuesday overruled the Egyptian government's decision to allow exports of natural gas to Israel and said the constitution gave parliament the right to decide on sales of natural resources.
But Israel expressed confidence that the Egyptian government would not allow any interruption to gas deliveries under the deal despite the court order.
Israel rejects ruling
A senior Egyptian official said the verdict did not require immediate implementation and the government would appeal against it. Cabinet spokesman Magdy Rady said the government respected the judiciary but could not comment until it receives the ruling.
Judicial sources said the government could ignore the ruling, as it has done in many past cases, or postpone action by filing a countersuit challenging the decision.
Israel's Ministry of National Infrastructure said it was confident the political agreement covering the gas between the Egyptian and Israeli governments would remain in effect.
"The ... ministry has no doubt that deals between the Egyptian gas company and its customers in Israel remain valid.
The ministry is convinced that the supply of gas from Egypt to Israel will continue as usual," it added.
Former diplomat Ibrahim Yussri, along with some members of the opposition, brought the case against the government several months ago.
Gas started flowing to Israel through a pipeline for the first time in May under an agreement signed in 2005 for the supply of 1.7 billion cubic meters a year over 20 years.
The group of lawyers who filed the suit against the government said the Israelis were buying the gas at prices below the international level. The Egyptian government is reluctant to reveal the price it receives for natural gas exports.
The government never submitted the gas deal with Israel to parliament, arguing it was a private arrangement between EMG and the state-owned utility company Israel Electric Corp. and therefore outside the court's jurisdiction.
The court, however, ruled that "national resources belong to current and future generations, and the executive must first get parliament's approval" on gas export deals, a judicial source told AFP.
"(Parliament) is the body best qualified to monitor the actions of the administration with regards to granting concessions to exploit natural wealth," the court said, quoted by the Egyptian state news agency MENA.
Some Egyptian leftists and Arab nationalists oppose in principle the sale of gas to Israel, which fought four wars with Egypt between 1948 and 1973 before making peace in 1979, though relations are not “normalized.”
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood opposition, which controls a fifth of seats in parliament, has opposed exporting gas to Israel because of what it calls the country's punishing blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.