Knesset to vote on controversial natural gas deal


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli Knesset is set to vote on a recent Cabinet decision to override the Antitrust Authority and enact a controversial agreement on the development of Israel’s offshore natural gas reserves.

On Sunday, the Cabinet voted to allow the government to override the Antitrust Authority, which objects to the current draft agreement between the Israeli government and the gas companies, U.S.-based Noble Energy and Israeli-owned Delek Group. The full Knesset will vote on Monday.

“I am determined to advance a realistic solution that will bring gas to the Israeli economy,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the Cabinet meeting. “I will not capitulate to populist proposals that will leave the gas deep underground. We have already seen enough countries that succumbed to these pressures and the gas has remained in the ground. This cannot be allowed to happen here.”

The Cabinet move comes days after the security Cabinet unanimously approved the expedited development and expansion of the natural gas fields that have been discovered off Israel’s coast.

Also Sunday, Israel’s deputy attorney general found that Netanyahu could continue overseeing natural gas regulating, despite a letter sent to the prime minister in July 2014 by American supporter Sheldon Adelson that urged him to consider “streamlining the regulation of hydrocarbons in Israel.”

Haaretz first reported on the potential conflict on Friday.

Netanyahu responded to the report in a Facebook post.

“I do not work for any tycoon – I’m the prime minister of Israel and I work for you, for the security of the State of Israel and the welfare of all of its citizens,” he wrote. “During the election I pledged to work to reduce the cost of living. I am determined to do this through the many resources we will gain through [implementation of] the gas draft. The draft dismantles the monopoly and will bring over the coming decades hundreds of millions of shekels for education, welfare and health for all the citizens of Israel.”

The Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu never discussed policies related to natural gas with Adelson, either directly or indirectly, according to Haaretz.

On Saturday night, thousands of Israelis protested in Saturday night against the potential deal between the government and the gas companies.

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