Jordanians protest gas deal with Israel

AMMAN, JORDAN (AP) — Hundreds of Jordanians demonstrated in downtown Amman, calling on the government to cancel an agreement in which Israel began pumping natural gas to the kingdom this year.

Jordanian security forces prevented the protesters from reaching symbolic Al-Nakheel Square in the capital, where the turnout had been expected to grow larger.

Earlier this month, Jordan’s National Electric Power Company (NEPCO), said gas pumping had started as part of a multi-billion-dollar deal with Texas-based Noble Energy aimed at lowering the cost of power in the energy-poor kingdom.

Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Group are, among others, partners in the newly operational Leviathan gas field off Israel’s Mediterranean coast.

In a statement then, NEPCO said importing the gas from Israel was “the last option” after supplies of Egyptian gas came to an end after its pipeline was repeatedly targetted by militants in Sinai. NEPCO said Israel was “the only available source”.

At odds with the kingdom’s official policy, many Jordanians still see Israel as an enemy and often meet steps toward normalisation with great public backlash. Over half the population are believed to be Palestinian refugees or their descendants.

Dozens of police on Friday formed lines to prevent protesters from marching. The Jordanian flag-waving protesters also threatened to overthrow the government if it sticks by the gas deal.

Secretary General of the Islamic Action Front Party Murad al-Adayleh called on the government, “which has allowed the start of importing the gas,” to step down.

The USD10 billion deal is expected to provide 45 billion cubic metres of Israeli gas to Jordan over the next 15 years.