Jordanians protest against gas deal with Israeli partners

By Mohammad Tayseer on 10/14/2016

AMMAN, Jordan (Bloomberg) -- Hundreds of Jordanians took to the streets of Amman on Friday to protest a $10-billion gas deal recently reached between Natural Electric Power Co. (NEPCO) of Jordan and partners in Israel’s Leviathan field.

The demonstrators carried banners stating “Israeli gas is an occupation” and “To our government, you do not represent us,” while some wore red T-shirts with the slogan “Enemy Gas is Occupation.”

The export agreement signed in September between state-owned NEPCO and partners including Noble Energy Inc. and Delek Drilling-LP stipulates Jordan will get a gross 1.6 Tcf of natural gas from Leviathan field over a 15-year period. The site was discovered in 2010 in the Mediterranean Sea off Israel’s coast, and the first exports are targeted for 2019.

Jordan was the second Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel, after Egypt. The Leviathan accord follows a previously-announced deal with Jordan Bromine Co. and the Arab Potash Co., which will establish the first gas exports to Jordan from the Tamar field, Israel’s second-biggest reserve, in late 2016.

“Our government should listen to the people here,” said protester Ahmad Jaabari, 58, a merchant. “We can buy gas from anywhere; why Israel? We don’t want the peace deal with them.”

Jordan imports 97% of its energy needs annually. The Energy Ministry has repeatedly said the kingdom needs the deal because it will help diversify its energy resources, especially after natural gas shipments from Egypt were halted in 2014.

Last year, Jordan opened an LNG terminal, which allowed it to import LNG after gas shipments from Egypt stopped. But Jordan was keen on the deal with Noble because natural gas is cheaper than LNG.

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