Tamar natural gas rig 370.
(photo credit: Albatross)
At an emergency session of the Knesset’s Social-Environment Lobby on Wednesday,
some 60 MKs signed a letter demanding that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
bring the issue of determining gas export allocations to the
“The decision on the issue of exporting the gas from
reservoirs discovered near Israel’s coasts bears far-reaching economic, social
and environmental implications,” said the letter, written by MK Dov Henin,
chairman of the lobby.
“The issue is a weighty one and it should be
discussed and ultimately decided by the hands of the Knesset, in the framework
of a comprehensive and transparent public and professional discussion,” he
Last fall, the Zemach Committee – headed by Energy and Water
director-general Shaul Zemach – recommended that the government allow for the
export of no more than 500 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
government has yet to adopt this recommendation, environmentalists as
high-ranking as Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz and former
environmental protection minister Gilad Erdan have said this allotment is too
The already flowing Tamar reservoir, with 250 billion cubic
meters of gas, is to be used for domestic purposes only, but its roughly
double-sized neighbor Leviathan is expected to be used, at least in part, for
From the point of view of the gas entrepreneurs in the
Mediterranean, without the opportunity to export gas to other markets,
exploration in the region will cease. Without the certainty that there will be
profitability and multiple markets for their work, new companies would have no
incentive to enter the region, the firms say.
At the emergency meeting of
the Social-Environment Lobby, Henin stressed that the exports would have deep
implications for Israel’s economy and would be “a mistake all
Exporting the gas would drive up electricity prices in the home
and would leave less of the cleaner resource for domestic use, harming public
health, Henin said.
“This battle is critical and significant and without
the public’s support we cannot do anything,” opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich
“We would lose ecofriendly-based energy independence, we would lose
money, we would lose thriving industries that rely on natural gas and we would
lose cheap electricity for all of us and a substantial price reduction on all
the products we buy,” Yacimovich continued. “The direct loss to each family if
the gas is exported will be more than a quarter million shekels.”
Tabachnik, head of the economics and environment department at Adam Teva V’Din,
the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, compared the export of gas to the
export of water – asking the attendees meeting to facetiously accept her offer
“to preserve for the state enough water for 15-25 years.”
“After all, due
to the global and regional shortage of water, we can export the rest of [it] and
make great financial profits,” Tabachnik said.
To ensure that Israelis
enjoy the benefits they are entitled to from the gas finds, Tabachnik called
upon Knesset members to approve a bill proposed by Henin – and drafted by Adam
Teva V’Din – that would guarantee a gas supply for Israel for the next 50
“The Israeli government has a moral obligation to ensure that
future generations will enjoy the gas reserves that will produce less polluting
energy,” Adam Teva V’Din executive director Amit Bracha said.