Just a few weeks after "Globes" reported that Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Israel Katz intended to expand Israel’s gas exports, he officially announced the move yesterday in the course of a visit to the Leviathan gas platform marking the first decade of Israel’s natural gas industry. Leviathan is Israel's largest gas reservoir.
"My job is to ensure that the supply of natural gas, first of all to the citizens of Israel, will remain robust in the coming decades," Katz said. "Along with that, the continuation of tens of billions in state revenues for the benefit of the country’s citizens and the fight to bring down the cost of living, together with the political benefit of strengthening Israel’s standing, certainly necessitate a decision to expand gas exports in accordance with the quantities required."
Katz sharply criticized Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich and Ministry of Finance Budgets Commissioner Yogev Gardos, after a series of letters in which they warned that Israel would lose energy independence. "I study matters in depth; if there’s an official in the Budgets Division who thinks otherwise, he ought to know me by now," he said.
On regional interests, Katz said, "Security is always top priority, but the energy ties between Egypt and Israel are important. Egypt needs gas not just for liquefaction; they have a serious crisis, and they need it for local consumption. All the warming of relations with Turkey - half of it is this story. There is no conversation at whatever level in which it doesn’t come up. Cyprus wants a direct pipeline to it to set up an LNG installation, Cyprus and Greece are potential with the old EastMed plan, which so far hasn’t received the seal of approval."
Katz explained that decisions on export licenses were made by the professional echelon, while he set policy, in consultation with the prime minister, since there was an important diplomatic aspect to the matter.
As far as local consumption is concerned, Katz said, "There is no chance that there will be a shortage of gas. The instructions I gave are to examine the estimated amount of gas, to estimate local consumption, and to make sure that there will be sufficient supply until 2048."
Part of the challenge for Katz is that, under the coalition agreements, he will become Minister of Foreign Affairs in December in place of Eli Cohen. Asked by "Globes" about his timetable for setting the new export quantities, he responded: "It will happen quickly. I have to make decisions for ten years ahead."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 2, 2023.
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