Political fallout from the latest crisis between Israel and the Palestinians is threatening to shatter a $15 billion gas deal with Jordan. As the Financial Times reports:
Jordan this month took the unprecedented step of recalling its ambassador after Israeli security forces entered Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque to subdue protesters angered over a move to end a longstanding deal prohibiting Jewish prayer at the site. It was the first time Jordan has officially recalled its envoy to Israel since the two countries signed a peace treaty 20 years ago.The controversy over the gas deal highlights the high stakes in a sensitive bilateral relationship that sees Jordan’s government co-operate closely with Israel on water, security and other issues, despite widespread public antipathy toward the Jewish state and its policies toward the Palestinians […]Yahya Mohammad Al Saud, an MP and president of the Jordanian parliamentary committee on Palestine, said: “The Jordanian [people are] not willing to accept this agreement. I will return to riding on a donkey and heating my house with wood before I would consider taking gas from Israel.”
As the FT notes, Jordan feels that its political hand is being forced. The crisis was precipitated by the shooting of Yehuda Glick by a Palestinian radical and the ensuing closure of the Al Aqsa Mosque complex on the Temple Mount. Article 9 of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan recognizes “the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem,” while a 2013 treaty between Jordan and the Palestinian Authority recognizes Abdullah and the Hashemite monarchs as “custodian[s] of the Jerusalem holy sites” with a particular emphasis on the Al Aqsa complex. That particular feature of this crisis is why bilateral relations that survived the Second Intifada have fallen apart over the Temple Mount.If the deal falls through, it will be a significant setback for Israel. The discovery of large natural gas reserves off Israel’s coast was set to make Israel a small but highly profitable energy exporter. Energy-poor Israel-friendly Jordan seemed like the perfect partner for an export deal. Moreover, a long term deal could have cemented political ties in the region with newfound economic ones, so losing the Jordanian contract would be disappointing geopolitically as well as fiscally. Nonetheless, Israel’s plans to export gas to its neighbors aren’t dashed just yet. As Al Ahram reports, Israel is expanding its pipeline to Egypt at a cost of about $2 billion, amplifying a major reversal of the Middle East energy markets after decades of Egypt exporting to Israel. As Israel and Egypt have grown closer in the fight against Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, an expanded energy deal could do the same for their economies.