Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

I stumbled upon this post by Mo-ha-med and discovered a pretty good blog. I am reproducing the post in full. It’s about time someone put this much investigation into such a politically and economically critical yet entirely opaque issue. Don’t neglect to check out the first post (referenced in the first line) and the comments on it for some more valuable info.

Anyway, hats off to Mo-ha-med and without further ado:

(Three Quick notes:
– Part One of this article presented a background to the Egypt-Israel gas export deal and what was ‘renegotiated’ last week, and can be found here.

– The research here was all made from public sources. Some sources required a sign-up for a trial version. References from newspapers, business reviews and databases, and industry analysis consultancies are mentioned as often as humanly possible. Information from unreliable online sources, or quoting an inaccessible print source was discarded.

– That article took me quite some time to write. So If you liked the article – or, hell, if you didn’t – make my day and leave a comment!)


EMG signed the gas export deal on the Egyptian side. But what hides behind this acronym? And why are they mandated with selling the country’s natural resources?

EMG is short for ‘East Mediterranean Gas’ – an Egyptian-Israeli consortium. Which, despite managing multi-billion dollars projects, has no online presence or website.

We do know however that it was originally a joint venture between the Egyptian Gas Petroleum Consortium (EGPC), a government joint venture operating under the ministry of Petroleum, and Israeli corporation Merhav, after a deal between Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmy and then minister of infrastructure Binyamin Ben Eliezer in 2005.

The company has been quite keen on keeping a low profile – hell, I can understand them – but it has gone a bit too far: it is actually spreading false information about itself!

But take a look at this page: this is a typical company-generated public profile – the only one I could find on the internet.

It is so full of misinformation I am still laughing. For instance:

– The website address is fictitious. That’s right: there is no www.emg.com. As a matter of fact, the domain name is registered for an education company in New Jersey.

– Check out the listed shareholders (graph):

Right. Only there is no “MIDGAS” that I can find, there is no Fordas Pernamanian, there is no Middle East Pipeline NV in the Netherlands, and there is no Coltex in Britain. There’s a Coltex in Austin, Texas, which generates annual sales of $170,000 so I’ll make the assumption that they’re not shareholders in a transnational pipeline.

The profile makes no mention of business with Israel anywhere. It just says (hihihihihi) “… to Turkey, to other countries situated along the Eastern Coast of the Mediterranean”.

Now to some more reliable information on the company.

Currently, the owners of EMG appear to be as follows:

28% for HKS, the main Egyptian partner. They seemingly started off with 53% – a controlling share -but sold a 25% stake to PTT – before gas even started pumping.

25% for Thailand’s Public company PTT (see page 3 of this document)

20% for Yosef Maiman, through Ampal-American Israel Corporation which he chairs, and Merhav MNF Ltd., which he owns

10% for the Egyptian government, via the Egyptian Natural Gas holding Company (EGAS)

4.4% for Israeli institutional investors. (Source)

The main remark to make here is that — the Egyptian shareholders in the company that signed on behalf of the Egyptian partner own, that is commonly referred to as “Egypt’s EMG” hmmmm, a mere 38% of the capital.

Let’s be very clear here: the Egyptian signatory to the deal is, ehhhh, not Egyptian. Beautiful, right?

A little digging into the main partners in this venture is in order, surely.

1. EGAS:

The State, of course. The Egyptian Natural Gas Holding company (EGAS) was established in August 2001 by Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmy (whose name pops up time and again in the EMG story). It supervises the natural gas industry in Egypt, manages the foreign investments in exploration, production, and the usage of Liquefied Natural Gas tankers”.

In 2000, the Egyptian government decided to allocate one third of the then proven reserves for domestic market requirements for 25 years, the second third for strategic purposes, and the remaining third, plus most gas discoveries from 2001 onward, for export.” Seems that EMG got some of those concessions..

Notice that when we read (like here or there) that “EMG reached an agreement with the Egyptian Government” – EGAS is the mandated government counterpart here.

So EGAS reaches an agreement with a company it is itself a shareholder of. Does that sound like a conflict of interest to you?

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised but can’t help to be a little bit – the 10 % share in EMG appears nowhere on the list of EGAS affiliate companies.

The Egyptian government is a silent partner. Hilarious. Though not unforeseen, given the expected unpopularity of the deal.


The HKS-Group is named after the initials of its founder’s, Hussein Kamal-el-Din Salem (usually just referred to Hussein Salem).

A real-estate development company, it owns a number of hotels, most notably the Jolie Ville hotels franchise it took over in 1997.

HKS defines itself as a “a Private Sector Egyptian investment Group whom (sic) has been active during the last Twenty-Five years in international business linking Egypt to the rest of the world in addition to managing a strong investment portfolio abroad.”

Hotels aside, HKS is no stranger to energy mega-projects.

In 1993, it established the ‘Middle East Oil refinery’ (MIDOR – Remember that name!) but declared it pulled out of project (apparently in 1999?) to, I quote, “concentrate in (sic) other new ventures and projects… on the core business of Hospitality and tourism”.

Yet it still owns the Midor Electricity Company (MIDELEC), which provides electricity to 3 oil refineries in the Alexandria region, chiefly to… MIDOR.
(Which HKS says it pulled out from).

Interestingly enough, MIDELEC is no longer mentioned on the company’s main website – but it seems they may forgotten to remove it from the company profile page on the Jolie Ville website.

This said, MIDELEC has its offices (as does EMG) within the HKS building in Cairo – at 26 Roshdy Street, Cairo. So much for distancing oneself…

MIDOR itself is a fascinating story. And it was most probably the meeting point for many partners of the EMG adventure.

For instance, guess who was made CEO and Vice-chairman of MIDOR in 1997? Sameh Fahmy, who 2 years later became minister of Petroleum, apparently supported by a recommendation of Mr. Hussein Salem to the President.

Briefly thereafter, a spinoff of HKS’ MIDOR was established in 2000, Al-Sharq Gas Co., selling gas to Jordan and Syria via the ‘Arab Gas Pipeline’. Al-Sharq, along with a handful others JVs, was granted particular advantages, namely “the same incentives and profit splits as foreign firms”.
Nice, eh?

And guess what Israeli company was part of the MIDOR joint venture? Merhav. They eventually withdrew – APS Review suggested that Gulf countries wouldn’t supply the refinery, forcing it to buy on the spot market; the Ahram Weekly put forth similar justifications at the time. Other explanations include the more general deteriorating Egypt-Israeli relations with Likud’s accession to power in 2001 – but I’m not too inclined to buy this justification.

Today, MIDOR makes a point of mentioning that 100% of its capital is Egyptian. Not Isra… shhhh!! :)
Its Chairman and CEO is a gentleman named Medhat Youssef Mahmoud; until 2006 though it was still reported that Hussein Salem, who held on to 2% of the shares, held the post.

HKS seems to have botched attempts to distance itself from the MIDOR sour memory, and to pass EMG for something it is not. At some level, their behaviour seems so nonchalant I wonder if they really meant to try to put this distance.

3. And the main Israeli partner, Yosef (Joseph / Josef / Yossi) Maiman?

He’s not this the guy on classmates.com :).
German-born, Peru-raised Maiman is a wealthy and influential Israeli businessman who owns Merhav (since 1972), is President and CEO of business conglomerate Ampal, and is on the board of Israel’s Channel 10. (see here, or here if you like US Government archive documents!). and, random fact of the day, his 2007 compensation was $2,154,563. Not bad!

With business interests around the globe, including several very large energy projects in the Middle East and Central Asia – with so much political influence there it reportedly worries Iran. He was also involved in a messy gas concession debacle off the Gaza coast with British Gas and the Quartet Representative a couple of years ago.

He’s a former intelligence officer (yes, former Mossad, but don’t freak out :), hence the close relationship with Shabtai Shavit, whom he recruited to head EMG’s Israel office.

(Yes. The Israel office of “Egypt’s” EMG is headed by the former Director of the Mossad. Tadaaa!).

Oh, and apparently Maiman is such good buddies with President Shimon Peres, he reportedly hosted his 80th birthday party in uber-posh neighbourhood Herzliya Pituah. Selfless friendship, clearly.

His Egypt connections go via HKS (MIDOR, of course) but also apparently via a longer chain of Maiman –>Shavit –> Omar Suleiman –> Every Egyptian Government big head. This relationship, Haaretz suggests, helped him get the EMG deal.

So there you have it.

The Egypt-Israel gas deal, it turns out, is a barely concealed cesspool of clientelism, personal relationships and private interests, breaches of government procedure, of transparency rules, and of corporate governance.

And we’re wondering why the deal was originally underpriced? I’m surprised we knew anything about it in the first place.

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AUC adds Israeli to Trustees

Here’s the announcement from the AUC website:

Retired U.S. Diplomat Named to AUC Board of Trustees

June 21, 2009, Cairo, Egypt – The American University in Cairo announced today the appointment of former US ambassador to Egypt Daniel C. Kurtzer as a member of its Board of Trustees.  Kurtzer, the S. Daniel Abraham Professor of Middle East Policy Studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, served as U.S. Ambassador to Egypt from 1997 to 2001.

During 29 years of public service, Kurtzer held a number of senior policy and diplomatic positions. In addition to serving as U.S. ambassador in Egypt, Kurtzer also served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, and principal deputy assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research. Throughout his career, Kurtzer was intimately involved in Middle East peace negotiations and the formulation of US policy in the Middle East.

B. Boyd Hight, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, noted that the board continues to strengthen its ranks with distinguished members drawn from public service and business professions in Egypt, the region and the world. “The appointment of someone of Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer’s caliber represents a valuable addition to our board and will play a vital role in advancing AUC’s goal to become a leading global university,” Hight said. “All of us on the board are extremely pleased to welcome him as a trustee as he joins the AUC community at this time of extraordinary transition in the life of the university.”

Since leaving government service, Kurtzer has authored numerous articles on U.S policy in the Middle East.  He served as an advisor to the Iraq Study Group and currently serves on the Advisory Council of the American Bar Association’s Middle East-North Africa Rule of Law Initiative.  He is the co-author, with Scott Lasensky, of Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East, published in 2008.  He also serves on a number of business and public service boards.

Ambassador Kurtzer received his B.A. from Yeshiva University and his M.A., Middle East Certificate, M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Columbia University. In recognition of his outstanding work in public service, Kurtzer received several of the U.S. government’s most prestigious awards, including the President’s Distinguished Service Award, the Department of State Distinguished Service Award, the National Intelligence Community’s Award for Achievement, and the Director General of the Foreign Service Award for Political Reporting.
Distinguished for their professional accomplishments in the areas of business, law, education, philanthropy and scholarship, members of AUC’s Board of Trustees are all volunteers who dedicate their time and resources to supporting the university.

Primarily Egyptians, Saudi Arabians and Americans, the trustees do not receive a salary and provide their own financial support to the university. AUC’s trustees include Moataz Al-Alfi, chairman of the Americana Group; Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel Prize winner and director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency; Mohamed Ibrahim, founder and chairman of Celtel International; and Dina Habib Powell, managing director and global head of corporate engagement at Goldman Sachs; and Dr. Ahmed Zewail, also a Nobel Prize winner and the Linus Pauling Chair Professor of Chemistry, professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Director of the Physical Biology Center.

He’s also, supposedly one of the chief architects of Obama’s AIPAC elections speech. Oh and he was appointed commisioner of Israel’s new Baseball League. (wiki)
Really now, AUC is becoming utterly shameless about its political role. While universities in the UK, Europe and even the US are moving towards divestment from and boycott of Iraeli institutions, AUC, formerly in the “heart of Cairo”, is increasingly moving towards normalization. Coupled with the complete cowing to Egyptian Security and the unapologetic disregard for the opinions of the AUC community, the administration’s policies are becoming quite frustrating to faculty, alumni and students alike.

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I just heard that Salma Said, Khaled AbdelHamid, Malek, Sabri El Sammak and at least 3 journalists have been arrested outside of the Arab League building in  Tahrir.  The activists were protesting in support of Gaza

UPDATE 1:05pm The number i am getting is 13-15 arrests. Apparently they have been shoved into micobuses. The few that havent been arrested are being followed around downtown.

UPDATE 1:20pm 4 arrests in Arish. People are convening at Hisham Mubarak to discuss action.

UPDATE 3:05pm 21 detainees in three cars: 1 outside bahtim police station; 1 headed towards maadi (my guess is either the khayyala in basateen or somewhere around tora); 1 under dar el qada2.  Apparently there’s a “harsh crackdown at syndicate” with dozens more being detained as i write.

UPDATE 5:00 Several updates: Apparently massive out of control protest on ramsis at 330. Has been contained since with lots of violence. There are rumors of tear gas. Over 100 arrested. Rumors of people in modereyyet il amn. One tar7eelat car in Tagammo3 with 17 detainees including khaled abdalla, a lebanese reporter, laila soliman, rasha 3azab. truck number 27692. The one in bahteem has 13 people.


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Egypt deports refugees

 Daily News Egypt article on the refugees expelled from Israel back into Egypt:

Egypt has deported Sudanese refugees who were returned from Israel on the understanding they would not be expelled to Sudan where they face torture or imprisonment, a security source said on Monday.

Some of the refugees returned from Israel were expelled to Sudan,” the source told AFP, referring to 48 Sudanese refugees that Israel sent back to Egypt in August after they illegally entered the Jewish state.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR in Cairo said they had been seeking information on the refugees’ fate “at the highest level of the foreign ministry” since they were expelled but had heard nothing.

UNHCR spokeswoman Abeer Etafah said that if it were confirmed that Egypt had deported the refugees to Sudan “it would be a serious matter.”

It is illegal under international law to deport a refugee to a country where they face torture or arbitrary detention.

The Israeli embassy says:

“The understanding was very clear that Egypt was going to look after these refugees and not send them back to Sudan and let the UNHCR look after them,” Shani Cooper-Zubida told AFP.

It seems the Egyptian and Sudanese governments are in cahoots:

Refugees Commissioner Mohammed Ahmed Al-Aghbash said Sudanese were being trafficked into Israel “to recruit refugees to implement Zionism agendas against Sudan.”

“Egyptian authorities should firmly penalize any Sudanese refugees if they were found trying to infiltrate through Egypt into Israel,” the semi-official Sudanese Media Centre quoted Aghbash as saying in July.

Scary, and illegal. But it was illegal that they were kicked out of Israel in the first place. As HRWstates:

“Israel should stop summarily expelling Sudanese nationals who enter the country illegally from Egypt and reinstate its policy of allowing them to remain in Israel pending refugee status determination,” HRW said.

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Article in CounterPunch by a DePaul professor reflecting on Finkelstein’s settlement with the university.

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Another one thanks to the Arabist; this article, written in light of the recent reemergence of the Saudi peace plan, enumerates the many ways in which Israel’s existence and policies have had direct negative impacts on Arab development over the last 60 years.

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National Public Radio has a six-part series on Iran and its neighbors that’s up on their website. According to the series, while Iranian leaders have long perceived their nation as the deserving leading power in the Middle East, it has only ever stumbled along trying to get there. It is only recent external factors that have raised the profile and influence of Iran. But this rise, framed as it has been since Safavid rule in opposition to Arab, Sunni neighbors, sparks fears among the rest of the countries in the region.

Naturally, this means that Saudi Arabia, taken to be the de facto leader of the moderate (or Sunni, or whatever the catch-phrase is) counterbalance is supposed to step up to the plate. However, many in Saudia believe this to be unrealistic because of both regional factors, and perhaps more importantly, domestic security and politics of religion. As such, they may, at least until the next US president, bide their time trying to minimize potential military confrontation. Although, with hardliners becoming scarcer in the administration, US policy is likely the continuing application of political and economic pressure.

Israel is framed in nuclear terms.

Syria, is a relationship shaped by common foes: Israel, Saddam’s Iraq and now the US. Iraq, on the other hand, is intertwined with Iran on multiple levels, including religion, history and politics.

Not very in depth. But interesting in that it is less tainted by American perspectives and fallacies than most of what’s in the media.

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