Amid a public uproar, the cabinet approved plans to keep 540 billion cubic
meters of natural gas at home – thereby limiting export quantities to 40 percent
of the country’s current reserves, rather than the original 53% cap
“The State of Israel has received a gift from nature – gas in
vast quantities,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “Thanks to the
decision we made today, every Israeli citizen will enjoy this gift. We will
lower the cost of living in the electricity sector via the gas that will flow
into the Israeli economy, and we will invest in the public welfare thanks to the
profits that will go into the state coffers from gas exports.
in implementing this decision will endanger the state’s ability to realize the
benefits of our gas resources,” he continued. “Gas must not stay in the ground
under layers of bureaucracy and populism.”
Netanyahu submitted the
proposal for the cabinet’s review together with Energy and Water Minister Silvan
Shalom, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and outgoing Bank of Israel Gov. Stanley
Data submitted at the meeting stated that in 2012, the Israeli
market consumed seven billion cubic meters of gas; thus, even in keeping with
forecasts of a significant increase in gas consumption, the quantity will
suffice for at least 25 years.
While gas developers in the eastern
Mediterranean area have been urging the government to advance an export policy in order to provide stability and certainty in the region,
environmentalists have been advocating keeping as much gas as possible at home
for a variety of uses.
Following a year of discussions, the Zemach
Committee – an interministerial committee led by Energy and Water Ministry
director- general Shaul Zemach – recommended in August 2012 that the country
keep 450 billion cubic meters of gas at home and cap exports at 500 billion
“We held serious, in-depth, significant discussions because
we are delving into the depths of the sea, and made a decision about Israel’s
gas economy,” Netanyahu said. “I think we found the correct balance. We were not
swept away on the waves of populism that are washing over the country, the
world, and we did the correct thing for the State of Israel.”
It is now
crucial “to move quickly” and resist succumbing “to populist pressures or
endless bureaucracy,” as “without gas exports, there will be no local gas
economy,” the prime minister asserted.
According to Netanyahu, if
entrepreneurs do not have access to a stable and certain export market, they
will not be encouraged to continue with explorations, and the gas will just be
“buried under the sea.”
“I think that the ability to withstand the
populist wave, against people who do not understand how to run an economy, who
can easily destroy economies, this ability is within this government,” he said.
“We are united and we have considerable strength and determination to enact this
For his part, Shalom emphasized that Sunday’s decision
demonstrates the government’s desire to make civilian issues a top priority. The
flow of gas, he explained, will cause prices of electricity, water and other
products to drop and thereby reduce the cost of living.
that was recommended to the government will maintain Israel’s energy
independence, take care of preserving gas for future generations and help the
Israeli economy in many areas of life,” he said.
Lapid, meanwhile, said
that the decision marked “a great day for Israel.”
“We increased the
expanse of the gas for local needs by 20%, but at the same time, we allowed for
export that will bring additional investors, will bring the state $60 billion in
the next two decades and will lower the cost of living and lead to economic
growth,” he said. “This government is a government that knows how to act and
Many voices from the opposition – and from a wide range
of political parties – did not show the same support for the government’s
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich is leading an effort to
submit a petition to the High Court of Justice on Monday against the
government’s action. Petition signers in addition to Yacimovich include Economic
Affairs Committee chairman MK Avishay Braverman (Labor), MK Moshe Gafni (United
Torah Judaism) and MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu).
enormous importance of the decision and despite the obligation to anchor it in
the legislative framework of the Knesset, the Israeli government refrained from
taking the requested democratic side and decided to avoid bringing the subject
for a democratic, transparent and comprehensive discussion in the Knesset,” the
Within the petition is an appendix from Deputy Attorney-
General Avi Licht that explains that the government’s proposal demands the
explicit authorization of the Knesset due to its significant scope and
consequent necessity for public debate.
“The volume of gas to be exported
and all of the arrangements related to the issue of natural gas carry a huge
impact on future generations and significant implications on the economic and
social state of Israel for the coming decades,” Rivlin said.
the Knesset, as a sovereign representative, must hold a fitting and obligatory
public discussion and decide on this.”
MK Eitan Cabel (Labor)
specifically slammed Netanyahu for the government’s decision, stressing that if
the prime minister was so sure of his position, he would not be afraid of
transferring the discussion to a public Knesset debate.
Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) and the Movement for
Quality Government are likewise preparing a petition to file to the High Court
of Justice in the coming days in light of the decision. These groups are also
calling for the decision to occur within the bounds of the
“Instead of acting as is required from an environmental, legal
and moral perspective and moving this to a transparent discussion in the
Knesset, Netanyahu chose to perform a lottery in export numbers to determine a
number according to fate and bet on the future of our children,” said Adam Teva
V’Din executive director Amit Bracha.
Environmental Protection Minister
Amir Peretz (Hatnua) said that while he supports export to some extent, the
country needs to allocate a minimum of 600 billion cubic meters to domestic
uses, according to ministry calculations.
Peretz also stressed the
criticality of ensuring that gas exported to the Palestinian Authority or to
Jordan is counted as part of the export allocation and not as part of the
“I am in favor of exporting gas to bordering
countries, which would facilitate the improvement of relations with them, but we
must do so from the amount specified for export, and not from the amount that
was determined for the local market – which is not really enough for our needs,”
“The cap that has been assigned to the domestic market today
does not allow for the efficient transition of the transport sector to gas
usage, the most polluting sector today,” he added. “The Knesset debate is not
just a question of authority, but also public legitimacy that needs to be taken
into account in decisions of this kind.”