Jordanian MPs Vote Against Gas Imports from Israel

Cairo- Speculation is rife on whether Egypt will step in to provide Jordan with its full natural gas needs, after the Jordanian parliament called for revoking a 2016 natural gas import deal with Israel.

A majority of parliament members led a motion in the Jordanian parliament on March 26 to force the national electricity company to nullify the deal which is expected to come into effect early next year. The motion causes embarrassment to King Abdullah II of Jordan whose government believes that importing gas from nearby sources will save a lot of money. Nevertheless, Jordanian lawmakers say principles are far more important than money.

“Our government has decided to buy the gas from a country that occupies the land of other peoples,” said Jordanian lawmaker Tareq Khouri. “We would be paying billions of dollars to a country that steals the natural resources of another people, namely the Palestinian people.”

The motion inside the Jordanian came only a few hours after King Abdullah wrapped up a visit to the Egyptian capital Cairo where he met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi. Talks between the three focused on economic cooperation, with Iraq preparing for reconstruction, after the liberation of its northwestern provinces from the control of by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Iraq is allocating tens of billions of dollars for reconstruction – partly from donations from the international community – to make up for the destruction wrought on its northwestern provinces during IS occupation and also during the liberation war. Egypt and Jordan also want to be part of the reconstruction process.

The Middle East region braces, meanwhile, for the post-Israeli election period. Benjamin Netanyahu, who will likely form the new government in Israel, has vowed to annex most of the West Bank to Israel. This will kill the two-state solution and put an end to Palestinian statehood dreams. Political observers in the region also expect US President Donald Trump to unveil his blueprint for settling the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the coming few days. Trump’s advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner travelled to the region several times in the past months to garner support for the blueprint, known as the “Deal of the Century”.

According to media reports, King Abdullah asked the US administration not to count on him in passing the expected deal. This leaves Jordan out of future arrangements in the region. Revoking the natural gas import deal with Israel will likely isolate it even more.

Most likely in an attempt to kill the motion, the Jordanian government referred the whole vote to the constitutional court for a final verdict. Jordan consumes 330 million cubic feet of gas every day, around 15% of which comes from Egypt through a pipeline between the two countries, whilst the rest comes from international markets.

In September 2016, Jordan signed a deal with a US-Israeli consortium for the supply of 45 billion cubic feet of gas over 15 years. The deal is worth $10 billion. Israeli gas should start flowing into Jordan early next year if the deal remains intact.
Jordan said in November last year that it hoped to raise imports from Egypt to 50% of its needs.

Egypt started exporting gas to Jordan in September last year, almost eight years after exports to the Hashemite kingdom stopped because of attacks on the pipeline carrying the Egyptian gas to both Jordan and Israel in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.  The resumption of exports to Jordan is only part of the overall plan for the return of Egyptian gas to international markets, with the populous Arab state achieving self-sufficiency and production surpluses.

Egypt, which consumes 6.2 billion cubic feet of gas every day, now produces 6.8 billion cubic feet every day. Production is expected to rise in the coming months with production from new discoveries coming online.

“Egyptian gas will be less costly to Jordan than what it buys from other countries,” Jordanian economist Khaled al-Zubaidi said. “Egypt used to provide Jordan with 250 million cubic feet of gas every day before the export suspension in 2011.”