Silvan Shalom at Tamar natural gas rig 370.
(photo credit: Moshe Binyamin)
Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom announced on Thursday that he has
decided to publish, in the near future, all of the protocols of the Zemach
Committee, which made recommendations this fall about natural gas export
“I studied the issue at length since I took office and after
talks with the Justice Ministry, I reached the conclusion that we must increase
transparency in public discourse and include the public in discussions before
advancing the committee’s conclusions,” Shalom said.
comes the day after he told Channel 2 that he intends to set the maximum natural
gas export allocation at 40 percent rather than the expected 53%
As companies continue to explore and drill through Israel’s
eastern Mediterranean waters, export allowances have become a topic of
contention across the country. The 282-billion cubic meter Tamar reservoir is
already flowing into Israel, and its neighboring approximately 535b. cu.m. basin
Leviathan is slated to come online within the next few years. Although the
Zemach Committee – headed by Energy and Water Ministry Director- General Shaul
Zemach – recommended a maximum export allocation of 500b. cu.m. this fall, the
government has yet to officially approve any export policy.
Committee’s conclusions, which also called for a minimum of 450b. cu.m. of gas
to be allotted for domestic use, have been under constant criticism from
environmentalists across the board, who say that much more of the resource is
needed at home.
Gas explorers and producers, on the other hand, contend
that a stable export policy will attract additional entrepreneurs to enter the
region and thereby discover more resources – bringing a benefit to Israel’s
citizens as well.
After hearing the 40% export cap presented on Channel
2, environmentalists maintained on Wednesday night that they would not be
satisfied with this figure.
“The export of 40% of our natural gas, as was
published this evening, is an offer that was presented to us but our position is
that this proposal does not meet the real needs of the citizens of Israel,” said
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz.
According to the
Environment Ministry’s tests and analyses, at least 600b. cu.m. of natural gas
will be required for the energy, transportation and chemicals industry at home,
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) likewise slammed the 40% allocation,
calling on the Energy and Water Ministry to “stop playing with numbers and
return to talk about principles.”
Henin explained that such a decision
needs to be discussed in the Knesset and needs to be a transparent matter with
Presenting this reduction of percentages as a “social”
decision is false, since export percentage can only be relevant once Israel
knows exactly how much gas it has, added Amit Bracha, executive director of Adam
Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense).
“This discourse is
not about amounts of percentages of gas that Israel will export, but is a
substantive issue of who owns Israeli gas,” said a statement from the Struggle
for the Preservation of Israeli Gas movement.
also praised Shalom for his decision to publish the protocols of the committee
and stressed the importance of involving the public in the country’s natural gas
Henin also welcomed the move and said that the next step is to
bring the discussion of the issue to the Knesset.
“In principle, it is
not possible that discussions of this type that are so important will be hidden
from the public and from the Knesset,” Henin said.