At its weekly session this morning, the government decided that it would invoke the clause in the Restrictive Trade Practices Law allowing it to circumvent the opposition of the Antitrust Commissioner's opposition to the arrangement arrived at with gas exploration companies on regulation of the industry. Section 52 of the law allows the Minister of the Economy to override the Antitrust Commissioner if it is decided that the matter is one of state security. The diplomatic-security cabinet decided on Thursday that ensuring the development of Israel's gas fields came within the definition of a matter of state security, but Minister of the Economy Aryeh Deri waived his authority, and so the matter came before the full government today.
Only one minister voted against today's decision, Minister of the Environment Avi Gabbay. Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon and Minister of Construction Yoav Galant did not vote.
The next hurdle is a vote in the Knesset. It appears however that Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Liberman will order his party's MKs to vote with the coalition, which should ensure that the hurdle will be overcome. The Knesset is involved because its approval is required for the government to take over the powers of the Minister of the Economy following Aryeh Deri's waiver.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the start of today's government session, "Last week, the diplomatic-security cabinet unanimously approved the expedited development and expansion of the natural gas fields that have been discovered off Israel's coast. I am determined to advance a realistic solution that will bring gas to the Israeli economy. 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 outline that has been formulated breaks up the monopoly. In the coming decades it will put hundreds of billions of shekels into education, culture, health and many other things for the benefit of all Israeli citizens. After years of discussions, the time has come to decide so that the gas will emerge from the ground and reach the Israeli economy and the citizens of Israel."
Last night, thousands of people demonstrated in Tel Aviv against the proposed regulatory framework for the gas industry.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 28, 2015
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