NB thanks to today's CAPJPO/Europalestinefor the alert re an article by Manlio Dinucci in Feb 12 Il Manifesto Se l'oro bianco del Nilo fa gola anche a Israele (“Israel lusting for the white gold of the Nile” [or, “thirsting for the water of”, as gola is ‘throat’])
The gist: one more little-mentioned reason for Israel ’s support of the Mubarak regime is the race to control water. Israel wants the Al-Salaam canal, which brings water from a branch of the Nile delta to the Sinai within 40k of the Israeli border (via a tunnel under the Suez Canal) to be extended to irrigate the Negev . Back in 1979, Sadat (in Haifa ) talked about the possibility of a Sinai-Negev project—this got nowhere because Begin refused to yield on Jerusalem .
Israel has never given up on the idea and has been negotiating with Egypt while extending its influence in other countries along the Nile , e.g. financing, arming, supporting the Sudanese secessionists. Note also the 2009 Lieberman trip to Ethiopia , Kenya , Uganda . In 2010 Egypt and Sudan , which under British colonial rule had been allotted the use of 80% of the Nile’s water, both refused to sign an agreement that would give the Nile Basin countries a fairer share.
In any case, the Mubarak regime’s plan for the Sinai was never to feed the people by growing wheat in the Sinai, but to lease water rights (long and short term possibilities) to rich foreign and domestic investors to produce goods for export. While Israel focuses on Southern Sudan—due to be the 9th player along the Nile, the Egyptian regime could tantalize Israel while using control of the water as an instrument of domestic domination of rich over poor– rather like Israel ’s use of the Jordan's water vis-à-vis Palestinians.