Nov. 22--AMMAN -- Almost two months after the state-owned electricity company signed a deal to import gas from Israel, activists, officials and former MPs participated in an open discussion on Monday to debate possible alternatives to it.
Ibrahim Badran, former minister and former secretary general at the Ministry of Energy, said alternatives are available and the gas deal, signed between the National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) and Noble Energy, a Houston-based company that holds the largest share in the Israeli Leviathan gas field.
"The deal was not announced at first in local media outlets; it was published in Israeli newspapers. This shows the gas deal is secretive," the former minister argued.
The information provided, he said, says that the agreement is for 15 years, with around $1 billion paid annually and that the gas deal will be implemented in 2019 by Noble Energy.
"Other details are not provided. Not enough information is at hand, which raises concerns among people," Badran said at the event, held by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in Jordan and 7iber at the Jordanian Construction Contractors Association.
"In 2014, Jordan signed a letter of intent regarding the gas, which was rejected, knowing that the data and content provided were also insufficient,"
MP Jamal Gammoh said the deal "enforces" normalisation with Israel and pushes the Kingdom to be engaged economically with Israelis.
Jordan signed a peace deal with Israel in 1994 and has been engaged in trade with Tel Aviv.
"The majority of MPs voiced their rejection of the deal. Towards the end of the 17th Parliament's term, members advised the government not to sign this deal, but the government went against the Parliament's advice," Gammoh said.
NEPCO officials have said that the deal would "save Jordan up to $600 million each year" and around 300 million cubic feet would be imported by Jordan daily.
The deal covers almost 40 per cent of Jordan's electricity needs, according to NEPCO.
Researcher Osama Qasem, who is also a BDS member, said it took two years to officially sign the deal after the letter of intent was inked.
The reasons for the delay were the legal obstacles in Israeli organisations and companies, Qasem claimed, adding that in the letter of intent, the decided amount reached $15 billion, while after two years, the deal said the gas would be exported for $10 billion.
During these two years, he said, many gas and oil fields were discovered, including the Egyptian gas in 2015, which led Noble Energy to reduce the price by $5 billion.
Reducing our imports of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) and replacing it with the Israeli gas, Badran said, is not "a matter of national interest".
Around 80 per cent of Jordan's electricity needs would be covered if electricity companies relied on the LNG imported and stored in the gas terminal in Aqaba, he claimed.
The available alternatives, including the LNG, cannot force Jordan into buying the Israeli gas, the former education minister said.
"Out of every $3 Jordanians pay for electricity, one will be sent as an investment in the Zionist government," he claimed.
International relations researcher Tomicha Pino noted that Noble Energy is "no ordinary company", charging that it is part of the "Israeli-US initiative to encourage business" and that it has "a clear political agenda in supporting the US-Israeli bilateral relations".
BDS member Jumana Ismail said the discussion aimed at raising public awareness of the gas deal and shedding light not only on the ethical, moral, and political issues but also on the economic problems that could result from the deal.
"Ever since the letter of intent was signed, we have been researching and conducting studies on the economic situation in case the deal is approved. We have tried to find figures and numbers to prove that even economically, it holds no benefits for us," she told The Jordan Times.
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