Jordan is rising up against an energy swap deal set to be agreed upon, by the Hashemite Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. It started with University Students, then Jordanian tribes and now the country’s parliament.
This Wednesday, December 8, Jordanian protesters gathered outside their country’s parliament in Amman demanding that the water for electricity agreement, between Israel and Jordan, be scrapped. Demonstrators carried banners reading “Down with the agreements of shame with the Zionist entity” and also “The water-for-energy deal is a new crime against the homeland and its citizens.” This was in response to a session in the parliament, designed to discuss the proposal and its logistics.
The deal, if signed by all sides, would mean that a UAE based company called Masdar would construct a solar energy farm on Jordanian territory, which would be used exclusively to send power to Israel. In return for the 600 megawatts of electricity from Jordan, Israel would supply them with 200 million cubic meters of desalinated water. But for Jordanian’s who overwhelmingly reject the Trump-era Arab normalisation deals with Israel, of which Abu Dhabi was a part, this not only makes their nation complicit in the so-called Abraham Accords, but also places a huge blackmail card over Amman in the hands of the Israelis .
Agreeing with this perspective, dozens of Jordanian members of parliament walked out of Wednesday’s meeting in rejection of the energy-swap agreement and forced the session to close. This came following an uprising from Jordanian tribes, who organized as part of the hundred thousand strong demonstration in Amman against the deal and in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Now that this deal is being proposed and discussed openly, the people of Jordan are being heard and so is their opposition to Jordan’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
What’s more, in an unusual turn of events, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is also opposed to the deal for its own personal reasons which are separate from the Jordanian feelings of solidarity with Palestinians. According to Axios, Saudi Arabia actively lobbied the UAE in order to have the deal stopped and was unsuccessful in its efforts to do so. It even reportedly proposed its own energy deal which would cut Israel out of the picture.
Although Riyadh opposes the deal due to it feeling that it had been left out of one of the biggest energy projects between the Arab world and Israel, this may end up working in favor of having the project scrapped. If Saudi Arabia remains salty about being excluded by the UAE and puts resources behind groups working in opposition to the plans set forth by the UAE, Israel, and Jordanian regime, there is a much stronger possibility of its failure. Additionally, it is clear that the Saudis are currently falling out of favor with their allies in Abu Dhabi, primarily due to them both attempting to assert regional dominance.
Unknown to many is that many of the Jordanian tribes are not always loyal to the country’s British-installed Hashemite ruling family and depending upon what seems to benefit them more, they change their political outlook. Jordan’s native inhabitants are a minority in their own country and the current king Abdullah II is himself of a family which came from what is now modern day Saudi Arabia. So for the Jordanian native population, whatever seems to benefit them more is where they will owe their allegiance. Those who monitor communities towards Jordan’s south will see that some tribes will even fly the flag of Saudi Arabia when they are unhappy with the treatment received from their Hashemite rulers.
Recognizing the societal situation in Jordan is important to understanding what is possible in the country, in particular the ability of Saudi Arabia to finance groups to cause problems for Amman. The Jordanian leadership do however recognize this reality. Due to its battles with the Palestinian Guerrilla groups in the 1960’s, leading to a war in 1970 between Amman’s Armed Forces and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) resulting in the expulsion of the PLO, Jordan now maintains a tightly knit security State. Saudi Arabia, along with Israel and even the UAE, were accused of backing a failed coup attempt which was said to have been uncovered and dismantled earlier this April. Although Jordan’s authorities only said that they pre-empted a plot to de-stabilize the country, it was clear from who was arrested that the paper trail would appear to lead back to Saudi Arabia.
Jordan being the State it is today, comes as a direct result of British and French visions for the Levant, or what is known in Arabic as Bilad As-Sham. The United Kingdom birthed modern Jordan, which was only ever viewed by the Arabs as a part of Bilad As-Sham – Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon – and ever since the State’s establishment it has been used as a de-facto military base for Western forces in the region, as well as a reliable ally. Yet, despite the circumstances of Jordan’s political system and role it plays in facilitating Western imperialism, the people of Jordan have never let go of their support for the Palestinians and their resentment of Western foreign policy. So for a movement to sweep across the nation carrying the Palestinian cause as its symbol, especially if it has foreign backing, it could prove extremely threatening to the current Hashemite ruler.
For these reasons it is likely that this move to sign an energy-swap deal with Israel, will pave the way to further complications in Jordan if it is not scrapped for fear of the harm it may immediately cause.