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  • Demonstrators hold Jordanian national flags and chant slogans during a protest against a government's agreement to import natural gas from Israel, in Amman, Jordan January 17, 2020.

    Demonstrators hold Jordanian national flags and chant slogans during a protest against a government's agreement to import natural gas from Israel, in Amman, Jordan January 17, 2020. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 January 2020

“The gas of the enemy is an occupation. Down with the gas deal,” placards carried by protesters said.

The Jordanian parliament passed a new law on Sunday that will ban Israeli gas imports to the Middle Eastern country. The parliament's decision comes just days after Jordan started a multibillion-dollar deal, which was struck in 2016 and opposed by much of the population.

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According to Reuters, the law was passed unanimously by Jordan’s 130 lawmakers and will be referred to the cabinet to be made law, although legal hurdles may prevent it coming into force.

The Jordanian government previously tried to downplay the matter by informing the public that it was a deal between companies rather than a political matter. The $10 billion supply deal was originally struck between Jordan’s state-owned utility and a U.S. Israeli consortium led by Texas-based Noble Energy, to provide gas to the country’s power plants for electricity generation.

It was not referred to parliament for approval.

A Reuters source in the Israeli energy industry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “The gas agreement between Jordanian National Electric Power Company and American-based Noble Energy is being implemented from early January 2020, and no change is expected in that regard.”

Although U.S. ally Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel the deal, which supplies Jordan for 15 years, has faced much popular opposition, with lawmakers arguing it makes the kingdom dependent on its neighbour for energy.

Many Jordanians are also the descendants of Palestinians who moved to the country after the creation of Israel in 1948, and view Israel as an erstwhile enemy that expelled their ancestors from their homes.

The Jordanian government said after the agreement was signed in 2016 that securing stable energy prices for the next decade could achieve annual savings of at least $500 million and help reduce a chronic budget deficit.

The import of Israeli gas has become a major focus in Jordan and sparked protests and calls for both the deal and the peace treaty to be scrapped.

“The gas of the enemy is an occupation. Down with the gas deal,” placards carried by protesters said.

Jordan’s ties with Israel have come under increasing strain since the gas deal was struck as Israel has moved to the right and since Donald Trump replaced Barack Obama as U.S. president.

Jordan’s King Abdullah fears Israel’s rejection of a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank could spark renewed violence and see a new generation of Palestinians relocating to Jordan.

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