Israel’s Knesset approves controversial natural gas deal


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Knesset voted to endorse a natural gas deal with a consortium of companies that will allow the development of several offshore natural gas fields to go forward.

The deal was approved on Monday by a vote of 59-51.

“This is a great day for the State of Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Netanyahu acknowledged that “we have one obstacle left and we will overcome it because it is the right thing for the citizens of Israel.”

The obstacle is opposition from the anti-trust commissioner, and the refusal of Economy Minister Arye Deri to invoke an article of the anti-trust law that allows him to approve the deal despite the opposition, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“When I want to achieve something, I achieve it,” Netanyahu said of the remaining obstacle. “There will be gas for Israel. I want it for the citizens of Israel, to lower the cost of living, to channel vast sums to the state coffers for energy security.”

Under the deal, the Israeli Delek group and the Texas-based Noble Energy will develop the largest gas field, Leviathan, and reduce its holdings in other gas fields. The agreement also will regulate the price of natural gas during the development period, which ends in 2020.

In December, Israel’s Anti-Trust Authority recommended the breakup of the consortium over monopoly fears, angering the companies, which have spent billions of dollars on exploration and development.

Leviathan, discovered in 2010 in the Mediterranean Sea west of Haifa, is estimated to hold 16 trillion to 18 trillion cubic feet of gas. The Tamar field, which has at least 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, is expected to meet Israel’s energy needs for the next 20 years.

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