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Constitutional Court says Parliament has no say over gas deal with Israel

Ruling says decisions made by NEPCO’s board ‘not under public administration jurisdiction

By Raed Omari - Sep 16,2019 - Last updated at Sep 16,2019

AMMAN — The Constitutional Court has ruled that the gas deal between the National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) and Noble Energy to import natural gas from Israel does not need Parliament's approval.

In a ruling published recently in the Official Gazette, the court explained that the government is not required to refer the gas deal to the Lower House for approval as it was signed between two companies and not two states.

The court's decision came in response to a request by the government in March to rule on the interpretation of Article 33 of the Constitution.

Paragraph B of the said article reads: "Treaties and agreements which involve financial commitments to the Treasury or affect the public or private rights of Jordanians shall not be valid unless approved by the National Assembly. In no circumstances shall any secret terms contained in any treaty or agreement be contrary to their overt terms.”

The court said that even if a company is fully owned by the government, it is not to be considered an official public institution and thus decisions made by its board are not under the jurisdiction of public administration.

Holding a special session in March, the Lower House declared its "utter rejection” of the gas deal between NEPCO and the Israeli occupation authorities.

At the time, House Speaker Atef Tarawneh said that all segments of society and MPs reject the gas deal signed with the "Zionist entity", requesting that the agreement be "cancelled at any cost".

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State Rajai Muasher said at the time that the government would refer the deal as a law to Parliament if the Constitutional Court required it to do so.

“But if the court rules that the deal is between two companies and Parliament has no say over it, the government will review the agreement again and take the necessary decision in consultation with the House,” Muasher added.

In response to Muasher, Tarawneh said that “the deal is completely rejected and we demand it gets cancelled at any cost and no matter what the Constitutional Court says”.

MPs called on the government to look for alternative energy resources from Arab states, arguing that the gas deal threatens Jordan’s energy security and serves the Israeli occupation’s economy.

In September of 2016, NEPCO signed a 15-year agreement with Noble Energy, a Houston-based company that holds the largest share in the Israeli Leviathan Gas Field, to purchase $10-billion worth of natural gas.

The government then said it would import 250-300 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from Noble Energy, which is expected to save the Kingdom around JD700 million.

Under the deal, Jordan will receive 3 billion cubic metres of gas per year.

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