MKs demand gas exports go before Knesset

Labor MK Braverman warned that “if the decision is not accepted by the Knesset it will have no legitimacy.”

June 22, 2013 22:57
2 minute read.
Tamar natural gas rig.

Tamar natural gas rig 370. (photo credit: Albatross)

On the eve of Sunday’s cabinet session during which a decision on gas exports is scheduled to take place, a number of Knesset members drafted letters to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the other ministers demanding that they transfer the decision to the Knesset.

“In order to help the legislative process of gas export, the Economic Affairs Committee will also work in August,” wrote MK Avishay Braverman (Labor). “The committee will continue discussions in August in order to hear all the sides, of the government, the public and the developers, and will formulate a bill that will be good for the citizens and the economy of Israel.”

Braverman warned that “if the decision is not accepted by the Knesset it will have no legitimacy.”

Netanyahu, along with Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom and outgoing Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, completed a proposal on Wednesday for maintaining 540 billion cubic meters of natural gas at home, an increase of 90 from the original 450 recommended by the inter-ministerial Zemach Committee. This would allow for approximately 40 percent of the gas to be exported, as opposed to the original 53% presented by the committee, which was led by Energy and Water Ministry Director-General Shaul Zemach.

Environmentalists who had been up in arms about the original numbers, stressing that more gas was needed at home, were still not satisfied with the newly proposed allocations, and demanded that a transparent Knesset discussion occur, rather than a government decision on Sunday.

They did not respond individually, but have stressed the importance of passing a stable, certain export policy as soon as possible to allow for the drilling of Israel’s reserves in the Leviathan basin as well as encourage future exploration.

On Thursday, however, deputy attorney-general Avi Licht published an opinion stating that passing such a decision in the cabinet rather than in the Knesset may be legally problematic.

Meanwhile, MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) is aiming to gather the 40 Knesset member signatures necessary to necessitate a discussion of the issue in the Knesset with the presence of the prime minister. He published a message on his Facebook page on Saturday morning calling on the government to involve the public in this debate.

“There are too many cases in which we trusted the ‘experts’ who explained to us how the state is going to profit,” Cabel wrote. “These are the same experts who brought us to a deficit of NIS 40 billion. I don’t believe them anymore.”

On Saturday night, hundreds of activists protested in the center of Jerusalem against the export of the natural gas, Israel Radio reported.

The police stopped eight protesters for questioning after they attempted to block traffic on King George Street, according to the report. staff contributed to this report.

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