The Gas Torch

Israel should change its belief that independence and the freedom to occupy are congruent concepts.

The Israeli ethos has transformed gas from an odorless and colorless element into a symbol - one of the cornerstones of the country's rebirth. Israeli gas is the symbol of independence, "energy independence," as the prime minister puts it. Never has gas had a more respectable status.

This week gas attained another historic role: It was appointed the last sentry guarding the peace with Egypt. To its detriment, the gas pipeline, which up until a year ago provided us with cheaper electricity and enriched its entrepreneurs, has become a symbol of an exciting historic move, the last scaffold supporting the Camp David Accords. But in the way of objects made of gas, even this symbol threatened to dissipate this week.

The haste to present the Egyptian company's decision to cancel the gas agreement as a "commercial" rather than a political issue is the best proof of the fact that the issue is supremely political. Because in Egypt, as in Israel, the pipeline has become a symbol. A symbol of disgusting normalization with an occupying country; a symbol of the corrupt government of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose sons are suspected of having received commissions of 2.5 percent to 5 percent of the total billion-dollar transaction; and a symbol of the abandonment of the interests of the Egyptian public, which pays a higher price than Israel for the gas it consumes.

And so, a popular revolution to bring about regime change in Egypt has adopted the gas pipeline as a symbol of national disgrace. Israel is afraid that without Egyptian gas there is no peace; the Egyptians say that if there is gas for Israel there is no national honor.

The "gas index" is strongly reminiscent of the index used by Israel to assess the warmth of Israel's relations with Turkey. As long as Turkey continued its military acquisitions, Israel believed that nothing could interfere with its relations with its Turkish "sister." The public fury at Israel as a result of the flotilla affair, like its anger at Israel's policy in Gaza, were not internalized by Israel, in light of the very substantial orders from the Turkish army.

Israel has reversed the situation vis-a-vis Egypt and Turkey. It believed, and still does, that these two countries are so dependent on Israeli inventions or on gas revenues - and primarily on Israel's power to shape U.S. policy toward them - that they will agree to ignore its policy in the territories, surrender their prestige and hold their noses. Israel preferred to forget that along with strategic interests, Turkey's relations with it were established on the basis of admiration for the essence of the State of Israel, and were supported by the relations that developed between ordinary Israelis and Turks. Egypt's relations with Israel were not based on oil or gas, but began to develop only after it restored its honor - as Egypt saw it - in the Yom Kippur War.

But both Egypt and Turkey have never given up - neither in exchange for gas nor for military equipment - their desire to convince Israel to conduct its policy in a manner that would enable them to maintain relations with it, without undermining their relationship with their citizens and with the countries of the region. Israel, which considered these relations a seal of approval for continuing its policy in the territories, lived with the illusion that the money index would solve everything.

This illusion gradually shrank the basis of the relationship to metal objects, flammable fluids, optical components or drip irrigation devices, which blinded Israel to the need to change the order: to build relations based on a wise policy that serve the trade agreements, rather than vice versa. When Israel awoke from its drugged state it discovered, belatedly of course, that the bastards had changed the rules of the game. Suddenly Turkey has "honor," it has basic principles on the question of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it has an independent policy - and Egypt is not afraid to cancel a contract. In truth, no rules of the game were violated, Israel was playing a game with itself.

Fortunately, policy, as opposed to wisdom, is reversible. If Israel was horrified this week by the danger of the gas-like evaporation of the peace treaty with Egypt, if it is experiencing stomach cramps in light of the petrified relations with Turkey, it can and should change its belief that independence and the freedom to occupy are congruent concepts.

Read this article in Hebrew