Abdel Bari Atwan
It is unlikely that the revival of the peace process or the attempt at rescuing the two states solution represent the main purpose of Mr. Sameh Shukri, the Egyptian foreign minister’s, recent visit to Israel. Rather, it conceals the real purposes of the visit, or the main one, which is enhancing the relations and accelarating ‘normalization’ with the Israeli state and pave the way for an anticipated visit by Netanyahu to Cairo.
The above is certainly linked to Israel’s efforts to establish close relations with the countries of the Nile basin which should have set alarm bells ringing in Cairo. Netanyahu has just completed a four-day trip to African taking in talks with the heads of Uganda, Ruanda, Kenya and Ethiopia. Accompanied by 80 business people, Netanyahu claimed his tour was to strengthen business ties but the real purpose is clear when you look at the map.
These are all countres that directly impact on Egypt’s water supply because of their geographical location. Egypt’s water supply comes uniquely from the Nile, the waters of the Blue and White Nile having converged south of Egypt, in Sudan. Lake Victoria, in Kenya and Uganda is the largest source of the White Nile, Ruanda contains part of Lake Tanganyika, a secondary source of the White Nile, while Ethiopia contains Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile which, though shorter, is more powerful.
Some Egyptian media outlets clearly expressed their concern that Israel was seeking influence in these countries and asserted that the reason was deeply political. Some honest writers and experts accused Israel of working on ‘making Egypt thirsty’ and destabilizing it by threatening its water security. Closer ties with Israel may encourage those who share the Nile waters to demand a bigger share for themselves – at present Egypt has by far the biggest allocation.
Logically, Mr. Shukri, or even President Abdul Fattah es-Sisi himself should have flown to the four African capitals that Netanyahu visited in order to balance the threat offered by Israeli interference. Instead, they hand Israel the power by seeking their help in matters in Egypt’s own back yard.
Had the Netanyahu government been really keen on dissipating this concern, it would have dispatched an envoy to reassure Cairo… However, the complete opposite happened, an indication to the Israeli arrogance in dealing with Egypt or any other Arab country. The warm welcome that Netanyahu obtained in the four African countries reflects a number of main things that must be tackled:
“First: the complete Arab and mostly Egyptian absence from the African continent at a time where the international interest in this continent is growing mainly on the part of Europe, America, China, and Russia (America inaugurated a military base in Senegal a few days ago). Second: Israel has infiltrated the continent and filled the void resulting from the above-mentioned Arab absence thus achieving an undreamt of victory. Third: Israel has thrust all of its financial, technical and political weight behind these four African countries in the next imminent war against Sudan (the passage country), and Egypt (the estuary state) in bracing for extending its circle of authority to the rest of the continent.
Netanyahu intends to send a clear message to the Arab leaders telling them: you left through the window and we are returning to Africa through its gates bringing along money, technology, weapons, security expertise, and a strong relationship with both America and Russia. So what do you have to offer?
When the Arabs were Arab and when they were ruled by dignified and powerful men and men loaded with patriotism and honor, neither Netanyahu nor anyone else dared visit Africa. Now, things have changed. The foreign minister of the great Egypt has visited occupied Jerusalem to ask for Netanyahu’s mediation to reduce the threats of En-Nahda Dam on his country and people. These are bad, even extremely bad times. We never expected to see or live through such times.
Abdel Bari Atwan