In a particularly venomous outburst that in many countries would have been seen even as seditious, Jordanian Member of Parliament Tareq Khoury (who is a Christian) has called on the citizens of the Hashemite Kingdom to engage in criminal sabotage against any natural gas pipelines laid in the country as part of a new agreement between Jordan and Israel.
Speaking at a recent political gathering, Khoury said:
“I have a proposal. I want to offer everyone the chance to sign a ‘declaration of honor’ under which they will sacrifice their lives and even the lives of their children to blow up any gas pipeline passing through Jordanian territory. We will not allow this [Israel] gas pipeline to pass even one centimeter through Jordan.”
Khoury’s statement took widespread local opposition to the Israel-Jordan gas deal to a new level.
Talks leading to the natural gas deal began in 2011, though the agreement was only signed five years later, in September 2016, under American mediation. From the beginning, it has been unpopular among many Jordanian lawmakers and a sizable portion of the public. There have been numerous demonstrations against the deal, as many Jordanians continue to view Israel as the “Zionist enemy.” This despite the fact that Israel and Jordan have been officially at peace since 1994.
Nor does the Jordanian opposition seem to care that the deal will greatly benefit their energy-hungry nation. Under the agreement, Israel will supply 45 billion cubic meters (BCM) of natural gas to the Jordan Electric Corporation over the next 15 years, at a total cost of $10 billion.
In addition to their disdain for Israel, many Jordanians were also angered by the fact that the agreement was written in English, and that the currencies used to specify the payments were in Israeli shekels and US dollars only. In December 2014, a draft resolution urging the government to cancel the deal was passed by a majority of Jordanian MPs.
The monarchy and its government, however, remain more pragmatic, and remain unwilling to cancel the agreement, despite the public outrage. Those in charge are fully aware of Jordan’s energy needs, and the fact that Israel and the Americans are making them a good offer. There’s also the fact that to back out of the deal now would incur a fine of $1.5 billion.