Israel has been quietly exporting natural gas to Jordan through an American intermediary firm, despite popular opposition in the Arab country to conducting business with Israel.
Gas deliveries to two Jordanian companies, the state-owned Arab Potash and Jordan Bromine, started in January, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Thursday.
The two Jordanian energy firms had signed a 500-million-dollar, 15-year deal three years ago to purchase gas from Israel’s Tamar partners. The US State Department had acted as a mediator to forge the deal.
But, formally, the gas is not being directly sold to the Jordanian firms. The Tamar partners, which include the Texas company Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Group and Isramco, are using the American intermediary firm NBL Eastern Mediterranean Marketing Ltd. to indirectly sell the gas to the Jordanians. This is while Jordanian pipelines have been directly connected to the Israeli network.
The Jordanian firms are believed to be paying 5.50 dollars per million British thermal units of gas.
The Jordanian government is one of the only two Arab regimes that have open, diplomatic relations with Israel — the other being Egypt.
While long considered the putative adversary of Arab governments, the Israeli regime has reportedly been in secret contact with such regimes, including Saudi Arabia, in the recent past. In March last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his regime’s relations with regional Arab countries were “dramatically warming.”
But Arab government dealings with Tel Aviv have been opposed by people in those countries. Since last September, Jordan has been witnessing popular protests against Amman’s plans to import natural gas from Israel, with opponents calling for the immediate abolition of such deals with the “enemy.”
On September 26 last year, another Jordanian firm signed a 10-billion-dollar deal with US-based Noble Energy and Israeli partners for the import of approximately 1.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per day over a 15-year term. Production is expected to begin around 2019 or 2020.
Former Jordanian Energy Minister Muhammad Batayneh has questioned the terms of the agreement, saying Israel would be the main beneficiary.