The Knesset on Monday approved an agreement to govern the country's natural gas supply on Monday in a first reading by a margin of 59-51.
However, the approval was only symbolic. A second measure necessary to move forward with the gas deal was pulled from the docket because it did not have requisite support from MKs. The measure would transfer the authority to use Article 52 of the Antitrust Law, which allows an economy minister to circumvent the antitrust commissioner’s objections if there are national security or foreign policy concerns, since Deri refuses to sign the workaround on his own.
Without a majority to transfer Deri’s authority, the government will not be able to move forward with the gas outline itself anytime soon, leaving it exposed to the possibility that gas-field developers Noble Energy and Delek Group will turn to arbitration.
Deri’s authority to use Article 52 must be transferred to the government in order for the gas plan to move forward because in December, then-antitrust commissioner David Gilo threatened to declare it a “restrictive agreement” due to Delek and Noble’s market dominance.
Nearly eight months of negotiations between the gas companies and government officials ensued, resulting in a compromise outline.
Then, Deri refused to be the first minister in Israel’s history to use the article, first suggesting that he would do so only if the Knesset approved the gas plan, and then suggesting that the gas deal’s authorization wait for a new antitrust commissioner, a process that could take as long as a year.