Report: Israel's $15b Gas Deal With Jordan May Be in Jeopardy

Additional tension at the Al-Aqsa mosque could sink agreement, Jordanian minister tells the Financial Times.

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Drilling at the Leviathan natural gas field off the Mediterranean shore.
Drilling at the Leviathan natural gas field off the Mediterranean shore. Credit: Courtesy Albatross

Increasing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians could scuttle a planned $15 billion gas deal between Israel and Jordan, according to a report in the Financial Times.

The two countries signed a memorandum of agreement in September that would see Israel supply natural gas from its Leviathan field to Jordan over a 15-year period. The gas would be transferred directly across the border between the two countries following the completion of a pipeline.

Jordanian officials said that the deal remains on track, but warned that any renewed tension over the Al-Aqsa mosque and Noble Sanctuary or Temple Mount compound could affect the agreement, according to the Financial Times.

“The peace treaty between us and the Israelis organizes all sorts of bilateral relations," Mohammad al-Momani, Jordan’s information minister, said, according to the paper. "If the escalation continues, all sorts of coordination and cooperation regrettably might be affected.”

Jordan earlier this month recalled its ambassador to Israel to protest what it described as Israeli "violations" in Jerusalem and its holy sites, the Jordanian state news agency reported.

The decision to recall Walid Obeidat was taken "in protest at the increasing and unprecedented Israeli escalation in the Noble Sanctuary, and the repeated Israeli violations of Jerusalem," the news agency said.

Jordan's King Abdullah criticized “Israeli unilateral policies and measures in Jerusalem" in a speech this month, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Abdullah to assure him that the status quo of the Jerusalem holy site remains the same.

Leviathan, discovered in 2010 off Israel's Mediterranean coast, is the world's largest offshore gas find in the past decade and is expected to provide the country with greater energy independence.

According to the Financial Times, the deal between Israel and Jordan would end the latter's reliance on natural gas from Egypt and cut its annual energy bill by some $1.4 billion.

However, the report said, opposition to the agreement is building in Jordan.

“The Jordanian [people are] not willing to accept this agreement," Yahya Mohammad Al Saud, a lawmaker and president of the Jordanian parliamentary committee on Palestine, said, according to the report. "I will return to riding on a donkey and heating my house with wood before I would consider taking gas from Israel.”

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