President Shimon Peres acknowledged Sunday during a meeting with Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar that to continue drilling for gas on the Sabbath and to also make the announcement of the flow of natural gas into Israel on the Sabbath had been a mistake.

Natural gas from the Tamar field off Israel's Mediterranean shores began flowing on Saturday, the head of a partner in the field said in a statement

In meetings with Amar, Yona Metzger, as well as with Shas spiritual mentor Ovadia Yosef, Peres spoke of the importance of maintaining Jewish values.

Peres also praised mega tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva whose Delek company was part of the conglomerate that drilled and developed the Tamar gas reservoir which will play a most significant role in Israel's future economy. He said that he had remained stubbornly optimistic in the face of the general lack of enthusiasm in Israel, and that he had found an American drilling company to carry out the essential work. It was Tshuva's stubbornness and vision which had brought Israel to this new level of energy independence where it stands today, Peres underscored.

"Without you, this tremendous phenomenon would not have happened," Peres told Tshuva in a telephone call, adding that bringing a flow of natural gas to Israel was an historic, unprecedented process. "I don't have sufficient blessings in my heart to bestow on you," the exuberant and elated Peres declared.

Tshuva, who was excited to receive the president's call, said that this new development could reduce the cost of electricity by as much as fifty per cent and he hoped that this would prove beneficial both to private consumers and to factory plants dependent on this kind of energy.

Israel, once energy poor, is expected to become a gas exporter by the end of the decade, with the Tamar field holding enough reserves to meet the country's gas needs for decades.

Sharon Udasin contributed to this report

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