All the 130 legislators of the Jordanian national parliament, on January 19, Sunday, unanimously voted in favor of a draft law to ban gas imports from the state of Israel and to terminate a gas supply agreement between the two countries. The draft law will now be sent to the government for approval and then sent back to the parliament for a formal vote. Jordanian people have been carrying out massive protests for two straight weeks against the agreement which went into effect on January 1.
The agreement between Jordan’s state-owned National Electricity Company (NEPCO) and an Israeli-US collaboration of companies, including Texas-based Noble Energy and Israeli Delek group, was signed in September 2016. As per the deal, estimated to be worth about USD 10 billion, 45 billion cubic meters of gas was to be supplied by Israel to Jordan over a 15-years period beginning January 2020. Accordingly, Israel started the supply of gas from its offshore Leviathan gas field to Jordan on an experimental three-month basis.
On Friday January 17, hundreds of Jordanians took to the streets in the capital Amman to protest against the gas supply agreement, for the second week in a row. They were prevented from reaching the Al-Nakheel square by the Jordanian security forces, given that turnout there was expected to be much larger. Protesters were seen waving Jordanian flags and carrying banners and placards against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. People shouted slogans against gas deal, saying “the gas of the enemy is an occupation, down with the gas deal”, “we will not be partners in crime”, “down with attempts to wipe out the Palestinian cause” and “together against the gas deal with the occupation.”
Mass demonstrations over the issue have seen the participation of ordinary Jordanians as well as various youth, national and Islamic leaders. The gas deal has also been met with opposition from within the parliament. In March of last year, the Jordanian parliament had voted against the gas deal, but the country’s constitutional court intervened and ruled that the deal did not require the approval of the parliament as it was signed between private firms instead of two governments. On December 15, last year as well, 58 of the 130 members of the Jordanian parliament signed a petition requesting the drafting of an ‘urgent’ law that would scrap the gas deal.
The Jordanian government has claimed that the deal will help in stabilizing energy prices through the next decade, which in turn could result in annual savings of up to USD 600 million for the government, helping it reduce its perpetual budget deficit. NEPCO, the country’s national electricity supplier, in a statement, also justified the gas deal by saying that Israel was the “last option” after supplies of Egyptian gas were halted following its pipeline being repeatedly targeted by Islamic State-affiliated militants in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula.