jordan keep up protests against 10b gas deal with israel
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Last Updated : GMT 11:59:16
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Jordan keep up protests against $10b gas deal with Israel

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Egypt Today, egypt today Jordan keep up protests against $10b gas deal with Israel

Jordanian protesters chant slogans during a protest against a government agreement to import natural gas from Israel, in Amman, Jordan, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Amman - Arab Today

Thousands of Jordanians rallied in downtown Amman on Friday to protest a recently inked natural-gas deal with Israeli investors, accusing the government of supporting “enemy occupiers” of Palestinian land.

Carrying signs reading “no to supporting terrorism” and “no to stolen gas,” a crowd of about 3,000 Jordanians chanted “the people want an end to Wadi Araba,” a reference to the kingdom’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

The protest, which was led by leftists and pro-Palestinian activists, was the fourth against the new deal in as many days. Activists said that for Jordanians, who rarely hit the streets, it was a barometer of widespread frustration.

“All of Jordan agrees, we do not want to be dependent on an entity that occupies Palestinian land,” said Yasser Baz, 53, who attended the rally.

Under the $10 billion agreement, which was signed on Monday, a US-Israel consortium will supply Jordan with 1.6 trillion cubic feet of gas from the Leviathan gas field in the Mediterranean. Jordan has no oil reserves of its own and relies on imports for 96 per cent of its energy needs.

The government says that by securing stable energy prices for the next decade, it can reduce a $530 million annual budget deficit caused by subsidised electricity prices.

Jordan relied on subsidised oil from Saddam Hussain in neighboring Iraq during the 1990s and later natural gas from Egypt under strongman Hosni Mubarak in return for the kingdom’s political support.

With Mubarak gone, Jordan has faced skyrocketing costs but has refused to raise electricity prices, fearing Arab Spring-inspired protests. As a result, the state-run Nepco utility has racked up $7 billion (Dh25.7 billion) in debt since 2012.

Proponents of the deal, which will provide Jordan with 40 per cent of its energy needs, say it will prevent a debt crisis, and Nepco maintains that it will save the country $600 million a year.

But the agreement is so politically sensitive that not a single Jordanian government official has been willing to comment on it publicly since the signing.

Critics are concerned that billions of dollars in taxes and revenue will go back to the Israeli government and might help fund the Israeli military, its occupation of the West Bank and its wars in Gaza against Palestinian resistance groups. Palestinians and their descendants make up about half of the Jordanian population.

While Noble Energy, a US-based firm, is a 40 per cent shareholder in the Leviathan gas field, critics point out that its partners are Israeli companies Delek Drilling, Ratio Oil Exploration and Avner Oil Exploration.

“We don’t want to help the Israeli economy, to help the Israeli government buy more guns to point and shoot at Palestinians,” said Maymona Omar, a 29-year-old nurse, as she walked with her twin daughters.

Many also are worried that by depending on Israeli gas, Jordan will be compromised as an advocate for the rights of Palestinians, a broker for a two-state solution and a custodian of the Al Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem. Under a special agreement between Israel and Jordan, Jordan’s King Abdullah II has custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in occupied Jerusalem.

“If they don’t like our politics, so critics say, they can simply turn off the tap,” said Daoud Kuttab, a commentator and director general of the Amman-based Community Media Network.

Jordan’s parliament voted against a similar gas deal in 2014. But the government declared that it does not need parliamentary approval now because the agreement is between two companies rather than sovereign nations. In any case, the deal was signed a week after parliamentary elections in Jordan, before parliament could convene and debate the measure.

“The government arranged for this signing while there was no parliament,” said Mohammad Darwish, 35, a protester. “We won’t let them off the hook.”

Oil was hovering around $80 when Jordan began talks with Noble Energy. Oil has since plummetted to around $45 a barrel, deal opponents and lawmakers point out.

“This deal is no longer in the best interest of Jordanians economically, energy-wise or morally,” said Jammal Gamou, head of the parliament’s energy committee and an opponent of the deal.

Despite the fury, observers say the agreement is all but set in stone.

“The opposition is loud, but will they be able to stop it? Unlikely,” Kuttab said. “It is a done deal, and with the numbers involved, the government is sending the message that it will not be challenged.”


source : gulfnews


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jordan keep up protests against 10b gas deal with israel jordan keep up protests against 10b gas deal with israel

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