KEY POINTS

  • Jordan had signed a $10 billion, 15-year gas deal with Israel
  • Jordan has few natural resources and depends heavily on energy imports
  • Gas supplies from Egypt were disrupted by militant attacks on pipelines in Sinai

Jordan’s Parliament passed a draft law that would ban the country from importing gas from Israel only weeks after gas from the Jewish state started flowing under terms of a 15-year, $10 billion deal.

The text of the proposed law states that “the government, its ministries and state institutions and companies are prohibited from importing gas from Israel.”

Backed by a majority of Jordan’s members of parliament, the prohibition also has the support of hundreds of protesters who have demonstrated their objections to the gas agreement.

“The majority [of parliamentarians] has voted to send an urgent motion to the government” to ban Israeli gas imports to Jordan, said parliamentary speaker Atef Tarawneh.

Murad al-Adayleh, secretary-general of the Islamic Action Front Party, even called on the government to resign. Another Jordanian lawmaker Razi al-Hwamla warned “if the Jordanian government does not cancel the Israeli gas agreement, we will topple it.”

However, it’s unclear if the Jordanian government, which has said the deal will upgrade the nation’s energy security, will go along with the new legislation. If approved by the Amman government’s leaders the law would then go back to parliament for a formal vote.

The Jordanian government said earlier that the contract with Israel was a business deal rather than a political matter. But many Jordanians, at least half of whom are Palestinians, regard Israel as an enemy.

On Jan. 1, Israel began pumping gas from its huge offshore Leviathan field to Jordan and Egypt -- the only two Arab states Israel has established peace treaties with.

At that time, Jordan’s main political opposition party, Islamic Action Front, called the commencement of gas deliveries “a black day in the history of Jordan and a crime against the nation and a national catastrophe that makes our sovereignty hostage and the energy sector in the hands of the Zionist occupation [Israel].”

The deal with Jordan was originally signed in 2016 between a Jordanian state-owned utility firm, Jordan’s National Electric Power Co., or NEPCO, and a U.S.-Israeli consortium led by Noble Energy (NBL) of Texas and Israel’s Delek Group. The agreement is expected to provide 45 billion cubic meters of gas to Jordan over the next 15 years.

However, the contract was not submitted to Jordan’s parliament for approval.

Jordan, a kingdom with few natural resources, imports 98% of its energy requirements, particularly gas, heavy fuel oil and diesel. The government even asserted that the Israel gas deal would cut its energy expenses by $500 million to $600 million annually and help reduce its budget deficit. In addition, Jordanian demand for electricity rises by 6% to 7% every year.

Daoud Kuttab, an Arab journalist, noted that should the gas deal be abrogated it would trigger a $1.5 billion cancellation penalty.

NEPCO has stated that importing gas from Israel was “the last option” after Egyptian gas supplies were disrupted by militant attacks on pipelines in Sinai. NEPCO added that Israel was “the only available source.”

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