"There are visible signs of public discontent and dissatisfaction over their government's relations with Israel," he said.

A $2-3bn agreement to supply natural gas to Israel was signed by Binyamin Ben Eliezer, the Israeli infrastructure minister, and Sameh Fahmi, the Egyptian oil minister, in June 2005.

The 15-year agreement, which is renewable, governs the transfer of 100-150 cubic feet of gas at $2 per cubic foot - a price well below the market benchmark of $14.

Tharwat Shalabi, an oil reporter in Egypt, said in June: "Egypt bowed to the pressure of exporting the gas at this low price.

"Egypt is committed to providing Israel with energy under the Camp David accords. It stopped exporting oil, and now it has to replace it with gas."

Amr El Khaky, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Cairo, says the case highlights the difference between Egypt's official stance on the normalisation of relations with Israel and the position shared by many Egyptian citizens almost 30 years after the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.

Camp David signatories

The Camp David peace accords were signed in September 1978 leading to the peace treaty the following year.

It signalled the end of hostilities between the two countries, but it was never fully embraced by a sceptical Egyptian public and in many instances, was, rejected, El Khaky said.

Since then, the Egyptian leadership has maintained its commitment to peace while linking the pace of normalisation of relations to a solution being found to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Critics say Egypt is tied to providing Israel with energy under the Camp David accords [EPA]
 
Israeli government officials have visited Egypt many times since Camp David, but most have been received in Sharm El-Sheikh in the Sinai and not in the capital Cairo.

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has visited Israel only once during his 27 years in office, to attend the funeral of Yitzak Rabin, the assassinated prime minister.

The export of natural gas to Israel is the latest in a series of trade and energy deals signed in the last 30 years.

Earlier this year, Yehya Al Gamal, a campaigner against the deal, said: "Exporting this energy only strengthens their military machine. And it participates in suppressing the Palestinian people.

"It's not about the price of gas, it's whether we should expeort it to them in the first place."

Egypt has become the sixth largest exporter of gas in the world.