Israel fears that the ongoing popular uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could threaten its natural gas supplies from the North African nation.
"We again realize that the Middle East is not a stable region. We must act to ensure our energy security without relying on others," a spokesman for Israel’s National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau told AFP on Tuesday.
The unrest in Egypt has raised serious concerns in Israel as Tel Aviv highly relies on its energy contracts with Cairo which account for 40 percent of Israel’s natural gas supplies.
In December, four Israeli firms signed multi-billion-dollar contracts with Egypt to import gas in the next two decades.
As the collapse of the pro-Israeli Mubarak administration looms more imminent, concerns hike in Israel that a new, popular government in Cairo might not favor Israel ties and cut Tel Aviv’s crucial energy supplies.
The fears were further intensified after the leaders of Egypt’s main opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, called on Cairo to stop supplying Israel with gas.
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced concern that Islamic groups could take power in the Arab nation, which has one of the largest Muslim communities in the world.
Landau also urged Israeli companies that are developing the Tamar gas field — lying off the port of Haifa in northern Israel — to push ahead with its timely development. The Tamar fields, which are due to start production in 2013, are said to hold reserves estimated at eight billion cubic meters.
Media reported on Tuesday that Israel’s National Infrastructure Ministry has conducted exercises to practice dealing with an emergency situation in which gas supplies are cut off.
Meanwhile, Israel has allowed Egypt to deploy its troops to the Sinai Peninsula despite a bilateral agreement since 1979, under which Egypt has been only allowed to station police forces in the region.
Tel Aviv said the move was to help Cairo prevent a revolution in Egypt, where people have been protesting at Mubarak’s regime for eight consecutive days despite the government’s warnings and the precautionary deployment of the army.
A UN report estimated that the unrest has so far claimed the lives of nearly 300 people and left thousands more injured.
The uprising in the North African country is inspired by Tunisia’s recent revolution that ended the 23-year-long rule of the country’s President Zine El Abidin Ben Ali and sent him fleeing to Saudi Arabia.