Knesset approves controversial natural gas deal

Marcy Oster

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

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

“This is a great day for the State of Israel. I am committed to bringing the gas to the Israeli economy, the hundreds of billions for the education, social welfare and health of Israel’s citizens, and tens of billions for investments and jobs,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

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

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That 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 which allows him to approve the deal despite that 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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