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The missing debate

Sep 28,2016 - Last updated at Sep 28,2016

While most of the world is joining the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement to end Israeli occupation, Jordan’s purchase of Israeli natural gas is an anomaly.

How could anyone be expected to join the BDS movement when the Arab country closest to the Palestinians geographically and culturally is its largest energy export market?

The government weighed between raising electricity prices and importing Israeli-owned gas. The balance suggested that public outcry would be greater for the former scenario. 

Parliament, universally rejecting raising electricity tariffs, is more divided (more passionately divided) over the gas deal with Israel.

The National Electricity Power Corporation said that it will produce a surplus of $300 million per year. 

The claim, accurate or not, does not consider the risks associated with dealing with Israel.

Israeli gas would help produce 60-70 per cent of Jordan’s electricity needs and thus a scenario of Egyptian gas cuts is possible.

Water agreements between Jordan and Israel provide a precedent: Israel repeatedly held on to Jordanian water shares because of “local shortages”.

The scenario might repeat itself, this time with gas.

Both the Jordan National Campaign Against the Gas Agreement and BDS and government should also inform the public of the risks, consequences and alternatives.

The alternatives (solar and oil shale) are more expensive, while electricity tariffs would have to rise in the short-to-medium terms to jumpstart these industries, particularly as they would result in long-term savings.

The gas deal should be put on hold for a clear public discussion and debate on the matter, including the costs and consequences.

Without facts-based public discourse, the decision will be interpreted as arbitrary and against the will of the people.

Bahjat Tabbara,

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