Israel’s call on natural gas exporting spurs threat of court challenge

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s decision to export 40 percent of its natural gas was met with a threat to take opposition to the proposal to the Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled the plan on Wednesday flanked by the minister of energy and water resources, Silvan Shalom, and Finance Minister Yair Lapid. They were joined by outgoing Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer.

Several large natural gas fields have been discovered in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel in recent years. There are projected to be about 950 billion cubic meters of gas in natural gas fields in Israel.

“Israel received a gift from nature – a huge amount of gas. After lengthy and critical meetings, we have decided to increase significantly the amount of gas for use by the Israeli economy,” Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem. “The amount of gas will supply the needs of the economy for at least the next 25 years. This is a balance between the need to ensure energy sources for Israel’s citizens and the need to export gas which will generate revenue for use by Israel’s citizens.”

Revenue from the exported gas is expected to be about $60 billion.

The 40 percent export figure is 13 percent less than what was proposed by the Tzemach Commission, which was created in 2011 to come up with a national policy on the natural resource.

The Cabinet will vote on the proposal Sunday. Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich, head of the Labor Party, threatened to take opposition to the proposal to the Supreme Court, saying the public supported keeping the gas in the country.

“The gas reserves, which belong to all of the state’s citizens, can grant the country energy independence, a dramatic drop in energy and water prices, the developing of a new industry, a great contribution to the quality of the environment, social prosperity and a great strengthening of the state’s security,” she said.

 

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