It began at a historic press conference in Cairo Jan. 15. Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and his Egyptian counterpart Tarek El-Molla announced that Israel would begin pumping natural gas to Egypt. It was the final accord of a turbulent decade for Steinitz, which began in 2009, when he was appointed finance minister. This was followed by the discovery of vast natural gas fields in Israel (Tamar and Leviathan), which resulted in years of bitter social, economic and environmental battles. At the center of all this fighting were the “gas tycoons” and social activists, with Steinitz fighting both, first in his capacity as finance minister, from 2009-2013, and later as minister of energy, 2015-today. Activists took to the streets to demonstrate against him and even threatened to destroy his political career.
As he waited in Cairo airport that evening for his flight back to Israel, Steinitz could see the TV monitors playing clips from the press conference. Watching himself standing beside his Egyptian counterpart, with the flags of Egypt and Israel behind him, he felt as if he had just closed a circle. It was the first time the Egyptian public was exposed to this important example of economic cooperation between the two countries.