The Tamar gas processing rig off the coast of Israel 370.
(photo credit: Noble Energy)
With the High Court of Justice on Sunday rejecting a state petition –
practically begging the court to hold the originally scheduled hearing on its
game-changing gas policy, this week instead of the postponed date of October 20
– the government and the judiciary engaged in a rare public battle over whose
time was more important.
Back on August 5, the state had agreed to the
handing down of an interim order against its gas export policy by the High Court,
freezing the policy until the court rules whether the Knesset and not just the
government should decide how much natural gas Israel should export.
the state had requested that the court expedite that decision so that the
developers can begin to extract the gas and the country can start to benefit
from the resource.
The court had ordered that the panel of justices for
the case would be broadened from the standard three, showing the case’s
importance, and not long after, scheduled the next hearing for September
Recently the court threw the state a curve ball, postponing the
September 17 hearing until October 20, with no real explanation.
happened next was the extremely rare part.
The state, just last week,
filed a rare formal motion, essentially imploring the court to hear the issues
this week as originally scheduled, professing the profound transformative impact
of the new policy and the need to start it immediately, as well as citing
numerous precedents for expediting a case.
In an atypical bare-knuckles
clash, the court shot back with no sympathy whatsoever, stating basically that
there were lots of other important cases on the calendar too, that the courts
are very busy and that this case and the government could wait like everyone
else until after the Jewish holidays had concluded (plus a few
The issue is rooted in a June 23 cabinet decision to maintain 540
billion cubic meters of natural gas at home – thereby limiting exports to 40
percent of the country’s estimated reserves.
The decision caused an
immediate public outcry and opposition politicians, including Labor Party
chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich, petitioned the High Court against the government’s
action. MKs that signed the petition included Economic Affairs Committee
chairman Avishay Braverman (Labor), MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and MK
Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu).
Following the August 5 decision,
Yacimovich said she was pleased with the government’s consenting to the expanded
High Court discussion on the issue.
“The government’s agreement to an
expanded discussion demonstrates an understanding, even if late, that this
subject is too significant and critical to be behind closed doors without public
discussion,” Yacimovich said. “It would be good if the prime minister would
decide already now to bring the issue to the Knesset for an in-depth public
Sharon Udasin contributed to this story.