Jordan's gas deal with Israel hangs in the balance

Jordan's gas deal with Israel hangs in the balance
Just when it seemed inevitable that Jordan would pursue its energy agreement with Israel, parliamentarians may have scuppered the deal.
3 min read
11 December, 2014
Jordan's parliament has suggested energy officials should look towards Arab countries instead of Israel [Anadolu]

Following mass opposition to the Jordanian government's decision to import gas from the Israel, the country's House of Representatives yesterday voted against the deal.

Jordan's state-owned National Electric Power Company had signed a letter of intent with a US company, Nobel Energy, which extracts natural gas in Israel - but the deal proved controversial in the kingdom where opposition to the Israeli state is widespread.

Speaker of the house Atef Tarawneh said the government was obliged to carry out the ruling of the House of Representatives.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour responded to the vote saying that despite Israeli gas being cheaper, the government would look at other possible gas suppliers, particularly Arab countries. Ensour said talks would take place with Qatar.

Pact with the occupation

The government has not been able to successfully convince the House of Representatives that the deal would be in best interests of the state and its economy.

Some members of the house described the deal as a "disgrace" and that it was one of the biggest acts of collaboration with the Israeli state since a peace deal was reached between the two countries.

"Jordan will be paying for stolen natural resources, and the royalties and taxes Israel will collect from the sales proceeds will further fund its system of occupation, apartheid and exploitation of the Palestinian people and their resources," said a representative of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign group.

"The agreement would also give Israel a chance to ease its regional and international isolation, especially after its latest aggression on the Palestinian people in Gaza."

A preliminary agreement stated that the Jordanian company would import Israeli gas for a period of 15 years with the value of the deal estimated at $15 billion. Israel had announced that it would expand its gas pipeline to Jordan at an estimated cost of around $70 million.

     Jordan faces significant energy challenges, leading to annual energy costs of $6.5 billion a year.

Energy crisis

It comes at a time when Jordan faces significant challenges in powering the country, particularly after Egyptian gas supplies ceased, leading to annual energy costs of $6.5 billion a year and $7 billion losses for the National Electric Power Company.

Israel has discovered huge gas reserves off its shores and Jordanian, Egyptian and Palestinian authorities have been viewed as possible markets - particularly as transporting the gas to Europe would prove unviable due to huge costs.

A pipeline via Cyprus and Greece has been touted to open Israeli gas to European markets.

Israeli strategic expert Amir Foster said that energy partnership between Israel and Arab countries would give Israel more leverage in the region, and is particularly relevant at a time when many countries are focused on tackling the Islamic State group and other armed movements.

In a report published by the Israeli economic newspaper Globes after the initial agreement was signed, Foster described gas as a silent and effective political mediator, which would be an invaluable tool in establishing regional relationships.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.