The Knesset Security Cabinet on Thursday unanimously decided to pass a compromise deal over Israel’s natural gas monopoly, in a move meant to quickly develop the state’s natural offshore gas fields.
In announcing the decision, the Cabinet said in a statement that “at this time, it is of decisive importance to move quickly to develop and expand the natural gas fields that have been discovered off Israel’s coasts, out of concern for state security and the foreign relations of the State of Israel.”
US giant Noble Energy and its Israeli partner Delek have played a dominant role in producing gas from the Leviathan and Tamar offshore gas fields. The new compromise deal is thought to include a sort of amnesty for Noble and Delek, essentially letting them off the hook for establishing a natural gas cartel, while implementing measures to break apart that monopoly.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said earlier on Thursday that the gas companies agreed to the dictates of the state, and as a result an excellent deal was achieved for Israel and its citizens.
He said that according to the deal the monopoly will be broken apart, Israel will obtain energy security and millions of dollars in income.
“The government in another month will vote on the entire deal,” wrote Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) on Facebook after the Cabinet meeting. “I want to praise Minister Steinitz who reached an agreement with the gas companies even though the deal isn’t complete it is good for citizens of the state of Israel and serves our geopolitical interests in the Middle East and the entire world.”
It was recently revealed that US Secretary of State John Kerry held roughly $1 million in Noble Energy stock in 2013 and sold some in 2015, indicating he may have had a personal interest when he tried to stop Noble’s monopoly from being broken up last year.
The Security Cabinet also adopted a proposal by Economy Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) to transfer his authority in Article 52 of the 1988 Restrictive Trade Practices Law, after he refused to sign the article and passed the matter over to governmental approval.
Article 52 stipulates that “the Minister may, following consultation with the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee, exempt a restrictive trade practice from all or some of the provisions of this Law, if he believes that such action is necessary for reasons of foreign policy or national security.”
MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) responded to Deri’s decision to have his authorities in Article 52 be decided in a Knesset plenum.
“Never were so many ready to be so quickly freed of so many authorities,” she wrote on Twitter. “Remind me why you so wanted to be ministers?”