Several thousand years after the Abrahamic religions’ story about the Nile River, Israelites, and Egypt, the three are meeting each other again in North Africa.
An artery to Egypt, the Nile is constituted of the two Blue Nile and White Nile rivers. Blue Nile is a rich river originating in Ethiopia. The White Nile has its origin in Lake Victoria among Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
The White Nile enters South Sudan after passing through Uganda, and the Blue Nile enters South Sudan from another route. The two merge in Khartoum before streaming to the greater Nile.
The Nile River supplies water to Sudan and Egypt, however its role in flourishing Egypt looks bigger. In Egypt, many cities and facilities are located around the Nile, and the famous Aswan High Dam and Lake Gamal Abdel Nasser have been built on it. It reaches the Mediterranean Sea after flowing through Egypt. It also grants thousands of hectares of quality agricultural land to the Egyptians by forming a large delta and a fertile plain. However, an important issue that has been of great concern to the Egyptians and Sudanese for at least the last 10 years is the construction of a dam on the Nile by Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has built a dam, dubbed Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)— one of the largest in the world— on the river on its last station in Ethiopia where it exits from the country, near South Sudan that is only 20 kilometers away.
Although South Sudan will be severely damaged once the giant dam is complete, the newly independent country is so embroiled in internal crises that is less likely to voice its opposition. The Sudanese government, however, is a little louder and more vocal in its opposition to Ethiopia and support to Egypt. Of course, Egypt is the angriest and most resolved in maintaining its opposition to the project.
Completing the GERD construction means dry-up of Blue Nile on the Egyptian side. However, the greater Nile will not drain off because the White Nile will keep flowing into it. However, filling the reservoir will leave the river in Sudan and Egypt largely out of water. This is the main reason Cairo stands against the project.
The GERD project: An internal or external case?
The Ethiopian government began building the dam in 2011, and since then Egypt and Sudan have opposed the construction work. The Ethiopian government did the first filling of the dam in mid-2020 and the second filling is said to have been completed over the weekend. In Ethiopia fulfillment of the project is so important that the public follow the news of its progress closely. Addis Ababa plans massive nationwide celebrations once the ultimate filling is complete. Great renaissance in the naming of the dam points to the future large-scale economic development the project will contribute to.
On the other side, Egypt calls for halting the filling and restoring the pre-filling output level. Egypt has even warned that it would bomb the dam if Ethiopia refused to cooperate, and last week the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry issued a clear warning that Cairo would “consider all options to defend its interests” in the dispute.
Along with Khartoum, Cairo took the dispute to the UN Security Council and called for its intervention to settle the case. But Adis Ababa insists the project is an internal case and has nothing to do with the UNSC.
Over the past few years, the three negotiated the project and a filling mechanism. Even they announced an agreement in negotiations mediated by Donald Trump administration last year. However, the problem is that Egypt and Sudan argue the agreement terms are binding for Ethiopia and want it to show adherence and review the reserve as there are risks of drought once the dam is complete. Adis Ababa, however, argues this is “recommendtory” and thus non-binding.
A seditionary foreign actor
Amid regional dispute among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, there is also the trail of a foreign actor fishing in the troubled waters of the Nile.
Mustafa Bakri, an Egyptian member of parliament and media figure, last week revealed that the dam crisis is politically-motivated and aimed at “transferring the Nile water to Israel.”
Dhiyauddin Dawoud, another Egyptian member of parliament, said that Tel Aviv instrumentalizes Ethiopia “to realize the greater Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates.”
Mustafa al-Fiqhi, another parliamentarian and the head of the Great library of Alexanderia, said that the Israelis influence the dam dispute because since the presidency of Anwar Sadat Tel Aviv yearned to be one of the Nile’s downstream states. Al-Fiqhi believes that Egypt should turn to the Israelis to put strains on Ethiopia in the dam case.
While some revealed Ethiopia’s complicity in achieving Israel’s goals in order to bring Cairo to its knees, others criticized Egypt’s offer to reach out to Israel to mediate the dam crisis.
“Israel has been seeking water from the Nile River since the early years of its formation through several US-sponsored projects, said Hassan Mahali, a journalist of Lebanese-based Al-Mayadeen news network, adding: “One of Israel’s main goals was to gain access to the Nile through the African countries after the occupation of Palestine in 1948.
The journalist Amani al-Gherm in an article published by the Arab-language Rai Al Youm newspaper wrote that the Israeli interest in the water resources in general and the Nile in particular is “in the heart of the Zionist strategic ideology.”
Abdullah al-Sanawi, another journalist, in the Lebanese Al Akhbar newspaper commented on al-Fiqhi’s suggestion, saying that “one of the worst things happening in Egypt is rise of some voices calling for Cairo to ask Tel Aviv to mediate for a solution.”
Why the Israeli regime clandestinely turned into an actor in the GERD dispute has its specific reasons. Here are some of them:
Tel Aviv is secretly supporting Ethiopia in the dam crisis and intervening in the case with the aim of putting pressure on the Egyptians. Despite the peace agreement between Egypt and the Israeli regime and some diplomatic gestures, there is no doubt that Cairo and Tel Aviv will never be recognized as strategic allies. Rather, they are strategic and staunch opponents who smile at each other but whenever they find opportunity, they unleash hostility against each other. Tel Aviv now sees the Nile crisis as a valuable opportunity to put more pressure on Egyptians, and will make the most of it. Britain has long said that the Nile is the most important issue for the Egyptians, and if you want to put pressure on them, do it this way. Tel Aviv took its godfather’s advice.
It should be noted that the issue of water has always been one of the strategic pillars of the Israeli policy and its approach to the Nile Basin states and Africa, especially Ethiopia. Tel Aviv sees control of the region’s water resources as part of its internal security and one of the tools to achieve its ultimate Nile to the Euphrates goal, and is now working with Ethiopia to gain a share of this great water project.
From another aspect, creating crisis and instability in countries in its vicinity has been a goal of Tel Aviv. Now that Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia are involved in a complicated dispute, the Israelis find the instability in Africa playing into their hands.
Ahlulbayt News Agency: