Israel Schemes for a Stake in the Nile
By: Ahmad Rajab
Published Friday, June 14, 2013
Cairo – High-level Egyptian sources shared details with Al-Akhbar on Ethiopia’s plans for its “Grand Renaissance Dam” on the Blue Nile, revealing that Israel is attempting to acquire a stake in the river.
Egypt has initiated legal action to counter the Ethiopian dam project based on the Nile Water Agreement of 1929, which prohibits tampering with the quotas of the riparian countries of the Nile, or building dams without the consent of those countries. Egypt has formed a national committee to follow up on the crisis with Ethiopia.
Al-Akhbar’s sources said that eight months ago Ethiopia issued bonds to finance the construction of the Renaissance Dam. A large proportion of these bonds were offered through the country’s embassy in Tel Aviv, with Israeli parties acquiring a significant number of these bonds.
According to the same sources, the Egyptian president knew of Ethiopia’s dealings with Israel at the time, but took no action. This, the sources said, stirred up tension in Egyptian diplomatic circles and the armed forces.
Further information points to regional and international attempts, with a key role played by Israel, to revive and push for the ratification of the UN Watercourses Convention, a “global framework agreement that would give countries in the region the right to share water resources, and redistribute quotas accordingly.”
According to the sources, if Israel is officially designated as a country of the Middle East, it “would give Israel rights to the waters of the Nile.”
The sources pointed out that Israel is already collaborating in sectors like water and agriculture with several African nations, including Ethiopia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, and Mozambique.
“There are Israeli experts living in those countries,” they said, “as well as Israeli military installations in the Red Sea, including a base in the Eritrean Dahlak Archipelago, which Israel had acquired when Eritrea was part of Ethiopia.” The sources added that after Eritrea’s takeover of the Hanish Islands, it also allowed Israel to establish facilities of an “unknown nature.” These sources said that Israel established an advanced intelligence station run by Mossad in mountains near the border with Sudan.
The sources maintained that in the late 1990s, direct talks took place between Ethiopia and Israel. Egypt was offered a higher share in the Nile waters in return for selling water to Israel. Cairo rejected the deal at the time.
Furthermore, they added, a US-Egyptian strategic dialogue saw some fundamental disagreements erupt between Cairo and Washington over the Nile Basin issue and South Sudan.
In one meeting between then-US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and her Egyptian counterpart Amr Moussa, Albright refused to acknowledge Egyptian interests in Sudan. According to the minutes of that meeting, Albright told Moussa that “Egypt must forget its hegemony over Sudan, but must not forget that there is only one player in the region, namely, Washington.”
During the secret talks, Albright outlined the US vision, which was based on the following: The East African nations form a single bloc; Sudan is a key source of foodstuffs and crops; and South Sudan floats above a lake of oil.
Egypt’s current approach to the crisis over the Nile maintains that the river will not be subject to any multilateral negotiations, and must not be linked to the status of other rivers in the Middle East. The Nile treaties in place are stable, and Egypt’s legal rights are clear regionally and internationally. Finally, Egypt will categorically reject any talk of redistributing water quotas in the Nile Basin or the Middle East.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.