Does Egypt Need Israel To Help Negotiate Nile Water Allocation From Ethiopian Dam?

Written by Dana Sanchez

After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from a four-country trip to Africa, he got a visit from the Egyptian foreign minister, and those familiar with Israeli-Egyptian diplomatic relationships know how rare this visit was, Israel Today reported.

Netanyahu visited Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia, and they recognized that Israel is a power to be reckoned with, not just militarily.

African countries are fascinated with Israeli ingenuity, Israel Today reported. African leaders spoke to Netanyahu about the need for “regional and international cooperation in all areas, including cyber-defense, data-gathering, promotion of new technologies and development.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s arrival in Israel could be seen as acknowledgement that Egypt needs Israel to negotiate with Ethiopia regarding the allocation of Nile waters, according to Israel Today and Mosaic.

Shoukry’s visit was about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, scheduled for completion in 2017. This dam is expected to dramatically affect the flow of the Nile on which Egypt depends for its livelihood.

The Israeli prime minister has developed good relations with Ethiopia, and Egypt thinks he can serve as a mediator between the two countries.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi wants to pressure the Ethiopian government through Israel to get better terms in the Renaissance Dam deal, Mosaic reported.

“Egypt estimates that Israel has influence … in Ethiopia, and if (Israel) cannot prevent the establishment of the dam, it can at least influence Ethiopia to coordinate water allocation with Egypt in a way not damaging to its economy,” according to Haaretz.

Ethiopia has spent $4.8 billion since 2011 on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which aims to dam the Blue Nile near the Sudanese border. The dam will impact nearly all of the Nile waters, challenging the 1959 Nile Waters Agreement between Sudan and Egypt. The Ethiopian Herald described the latter as “the Faustian agreement by Egypt and Sudan under the British colonizers.”

In 1970, then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat said that it was better for Egyptian soldiers to die on the battlefields of Ethiopia than to die of thirst in their own country. Three years ago, former-Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said “Egypt’s water security cannot be violated at all.”

Tension is high between Egypt and Ethiopia and they need a third party they both can trust, a report said. In 2015, Palestinian official Mohammed Dahlan mediated the dam agreement. “The drastic pushing aside of the Palestinians in favor of Netanyahu is a clear indication of the deep, often unseen, African change of attitude toward Israel.”


The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has inspired pride and confidence in Ethiopians. It’s a symbol of resurgence, revival and determination to play leading role in Africa, said Fekadu Wubete, according to a Aiga Forum report.