Rivlin proposes bill for Knesset to vote on gas exports

"Every government decision effects generations, like gas distribution."

The Tamar gas processing rig off the coast of Israel 370 (photo credit: Noble Energy)
The Tamar gas processing rig off the coast of Israel 370
(photo credit: Noble Energy)
There must be a public discourse via the Knesset about natural gas exports, MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu) said Thursday, announcing that he proposed a bill to that effect.
Speaking at the Israel Democracy Institute Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society in Eilat, Rivlin said, “The more public discourse in the Knesset is effective, the less necessary investigations are.”
“Every government decision affects generations, like gas distribution. They must undergo public discourse. This is our responsibility,” he stated.
Rivlin’s bill, which he submitted to the Knesset earlier this week, simply adds the words “with the authorization of the Knesset Finance Committee” to the rules stipulated by the Petroleum Law regarding decisions on gas export allocation.
The legislation follows a High Court decision last month to uphold a ministerial vote to export natural gas discovered in the Mediterranean Sea. In a 5-2 vote on October 21, the High Court of Justice rejected a petition filed by Rivlin and opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich to overturn the government’s natural gas export policy. The petition, whose supporters included a range of left- and right-wing MKs and various NGOs, stressed that a decision of such financial and social magnitude must be made with full transparency in the halls of the Knesset.
The government’s natural gas policy in question was the result of a June 23 cabinet decision determining that 540 billion cubic meters of natural gas would be kept at home, limiting export quantities to 40 percent of the country’s estimate reserves rather than a 53% cap that had been originally proposed.
After a year of discussions, the Zemach Committee – an interministerial committee led by then-Energy and Water Ministry director-general Shaul Zemach – initially recommended in August 2012 that the country keep only a minimum of 450 billion cu. m. of gas at home at cap exports at 500 billion cu. m., or 53%. However, following a wave of uproar among environmentalists demanding that more gas be reserved for domestic use, the cabinet eventually settled on the 540 billion cu. m. quantity this June.
This solution was insufficient in the minds of environmentalists, as well as a group of about 60 MKs, the latter of which sent a signed letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu demanding that a decision of such epic proportions should occur in the Knesset. From there, Yacimovich and Rivlin brought the issue to the High Court of Justice, which ultimately rejected the petition.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.