Gas deal backlash as Zionist Union submits High Court petition

MKs are angry that PM Benjamin Netanyahu activated the gas deal by invoking Aricle 52, a controversial legal clause.

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January 11, 2016 18:44
2 minute read.
Knesset

The Knesset plenum . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

 
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Accusing the government of neglecting the Israel’s natural gas sector and “marketing an illusion” in the industry, the Zionist Union faction on Monday filed a High Court petition against the country’s gas framework.

The plan in question – a comprehensive deal aimed at settling disagreements between gas developers and the government – was officially activated on December 17 after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a controversial legal clause enabling the framework to move forward.

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That same day, opposition leader Isaac Herzog pledged to file a High Court petition on the matter on behalf of the Zionist Union, while the Meretz party and environmental groups submitted petitions of their own.

Commonly known as the “gas outline,” the deal received cabinet approval in August, but faced additional obstacles due to failures to receive the antitrust commissioner’s approval.

Fully realizing the gas deal ultimately required that the economy minister – a role currently being filled by Netanyahu – invoke a legal clause to circumvent the commissioner’s objections – Article 52 of the Restrictive Trade Practices Law (1988).

As part of the process of employing Article 52, Netanyahu was required to conduct consultations with the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee, chaired by MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union). While committee members voted against recommending the use of the clause, their conclusions were in no way legally binding.

Herzog chose to file a High Court petition due to the prime minister’s “disregard” of the Economic Affairs Committee recommendations, as well as his decision to sign Article 52, which “bypasses the antitrust commissioner for the first time since the state’s establishment,” according to a statement from the Zionist Union faction.



Written by attorneys Gilad Barnea and Hagai Kalai, the petition was led by Zionist Union MKs Cabel, Shelly Yacimovich, Manuel Trachtenberg, Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin and Yael Cohen Paran. The document takes a look at a “long series of legal flaws” in the outline, as well as issues of “extreme unreasonableness and disproportionality,” according to the faction statement.

“The petition exposes the poor conduct of the government in neglecting basic issues in the natural gas sector, such as the problem of monopolistic pricing and the lack of energy security – and now, instead of take care of this suitably, tries to market an illusion of an ‘outline’ that not only does not solve these problems, but cements them for generations and even worsens them,” the statement added.

Yacimovich, who has long been a vocal opponent of the gas outline, stressed that she and her colleagues would do everything in their power to abort the deal. Also describing the plans as unreasonable, Yacimovich emphasized “the public’s right to benefit from everyone’s natural resources, which were expropriated and plundered by a few with the help of the government.”

A High Court hearing on all of the petitions against the gas outline is scheduled to take place February 3.

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