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Lawmakers debate planned gas imports from Israel

By Raed Omari - Dec 09,2014 - Last updated at Dec 09,2014

AMMAN — Lawmakers on Tuesday expressed their staunch opposition to planned natural gas imports from Israel during a session dedicated to discuss the issue, while others defended the deal as a realistic option. 

MPs who took the podium called on the government to refrain from importing natural gas from Israel, arguing that the planned deal will have less to do with the economy and more with politics.

In September, the government said the state-owned National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) and the US-based Noble Energy signed a deal under which NEPCO would buy 250-300 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from Noble Energy.

In August, the Cabinet approved a recommendation by its Economic Development Committee to allow Jordan to benefit from the natural gas field discovered in Palestinian regional waters near Gaza and coordinate with the Palestinian Authority in this regard.

Critics among deputies argued that Jordan should not contribute to supporting the Israeli economy, citing Tel Aviv's "ugly" practices against the Palestinians and its daily assaults on Jerusalem's holy sites with no respect to the 1994 Wadi Araba Jordanian-Israeli peace deal, which stipulates Jordan’s custodianship over the shrines.

Other lawmakers cited Israel's objection to a Palestinian state and the Knesset's endorsement of a law enshrining Israel's status as a Jewish state.

Others warned that endorsing the deal would ignite a political problem for Jordan, which is now in “dire need for a unified internal front”.

The rationale behind the deal is not convincing, some deputies said, calling on the government to seek alternatives other than Israeli natural gas. 

However, some MPs saw no harm in importing natural gas from Israel, claiming that the government cannot be keener on the Palestinian cause than the Palestinian Authority which buys gas from the Israeli side. 

Recognising Jordan’s energy dilemma, proponents said they have confidence in Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour’s government to run the state’s affairs the way it sees suitable and in the best interest of the country and the people.  

At the beginning of the session, Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Mohammad Hamed said that the government can no longer stand idle watching NEPCO’s losses mounting year by year, taking down the national economy in the process, explaining that the availability of gas from various sources is the only remedy.

“Jordan should not be captive to a single source of natural gas. All options must be there in our short- and long-term strategy,” Hamed said, adding: “Buying gas from Noble Energy neither poses a threat to Jordan nor puts the national economy at the mercy of any state.”

Without naming Israel, the minister listed six justifications for importing natural gas from the natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, including curbing NEPCO’s losses and securing more than one source of gas. “Importing liquefied natural gas will enhance the Kingdom’s energy security.”

The withdrawal of British Petroleum from the concession agreement of gas exploration in the Risheh field, the low cost of natural gas-fired electricity generation and the impossibility to replace natural gas with renewable energy and oil shale to generate electricity are the other reasons Hamed cited. 

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