Feb 17 2016

Gas and the people of Jordan

Published by at 12:29 pm under Articles,Jordan

Jordan times logo

By Daoud Kuttab

After 90 minutes of powerful anti-Israeli speeches by 18 members of Parliament, Deputy Speaker Mustapha Amawi called the session over because of lack of quorum.

The speakers were incensed by the fact that Jordan and the American Noble Energy Company signed a letter of intent to import gas from the Israeli Leviathan field in the eastern Mediterranean.

Speaker after speaker explained that Jordan today is no longer in need of this deal, after having built a liquid gas seaport in Aqaba and working on building the Basra-Aqaba pipeline to import Iraq oil and gas.

Furthermore, parliamentarians insisted that today’s oil prices, hovering at around $30 a barrel, are different from what they were a few years ago. Oil was over $100 a barrel and the Egyptian gas pipe was blown up every other week, causing Jordan to have to use much more expensive alternatives to generate electricity.

The angry speeches also repeatedly stated that Jordan should never allow itself to be monopolised by Israel, which can use the dependence for political gains. Speakers said that they would accept a higher electricity price, or even go back to using oil lanterns, using Ajloun oil as one MP said, rather than have to use gas coming from Israel.

Israel’s policies against Palestinians and the continuation of the occupation featured clearly in all speeches.

It is not clear the MPs knew how the session would end, but it was clear that the speeches were made without much concern and worry about the outcome.

While most members of Parliament spoke in an unbridled way against Israel, MP Abdel Karim Doughmi put things in perspective and emptied the speeches of rhetoric. 

If MPs were really opposed to this deal, he argued, such opposition would only make sense if it were conditioned on making the government choose between staying in power or aborting the gas deal.

No such motion was made possibly because those publicly opposed do not have the votes to bring down the longest serving government since His Majesty King Abdullah became Monarch.

Energy Minister Ibrahim Saif began the Parliament session outlining the country’s energy policy and explaining that Jordan will never again be held to a single energy supplier. He confirmed the existence of the letter of intent and said that it is constantly being reviewed, but did not say whether it will be implemented or aborted.

Saif spoke about similar gas deals being reached with the Palestinian government, which is expected to exploit gas from Palestinian waters. He also spoke about deals with a number of other Arab countries and Cyprus.

Alternative energy efforts, including solar and wind, as well as nuclear, were also mentioned as part of the overall energy plan. While much can be said about the futility of talk without action, it is important to see how low the Jordan-Israel relations reached.

The balcony of the Parliament was full of activists that were called to attend by Jordanians opposed to the Noble Energy deal.

Lectures, conferences and protests have been taking place denouncing the deal and explaining how it benefits the Israeli occupiers.

In addition to the strong opposition to the Noble Energy deal, Jordanians are active in the anti-normalisation campaigns and a weekly anti-Israel demonstration is usually held Thursdays not far from the Israeli embassy in Amman’s Rabia neighbourhood.

The global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement also has a Jordan chapter and its activities are on the rise, helping inform the public of Israeli products being imported into Jordan.

It seems that despite the strong and angry remarks by Jordanian legislators, the letter of intent with Noble Energy will not be cancelled any time soon, but it is highly unlikely that gas from Israel will become a major element of the country’s energy strategy.

No responses yet

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.