Environmental Protection Minister banned from testifying against gas plan

Avi Gabbay must support the cabinet decision and not oppose it, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein says

Israel’s natural gas (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israel’s natural gas
Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay may not voice his opposition to the government’s gas outline when he appears before the Knesset Economics Committee on Wednesday, the Attorney-General’s Office instructed.
The cabinet voted to authorize the gas plan in July, overruling Gabbay’s “no” vote, and legally, all ministers are responsible for cabinet decisions.
“During the committee discussion, the minister must support the cabinet decision and not oppose it – directly or indirectly,” Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein’s aide Asaf Harel wrote to cabinet secretary Avihai Mandelblit on Sunday.
“In this framework, a factual presentation of the minister’s opposing stance is like an objection to the decision,” the letter continues. “It is the minister’s ethical responsibility not to argue against the government stance in Knesset discussions.”
Harel also wrote that the ban does not constitute hiding information from the Knesset, because Gabbay’s objections have already been made public.
In addition, he said, disobeying the instructions will only bring “political sanctions,” not legal ones.
The letter came after Netanyahu instructed Gabbay not to speak out against the plan in the Economics Committee.
According to the coalition agreement with Kulanu, Netanyahu may not fire any of the party’s ministers without permission from Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
Still, Gabbay’s spokeswoman said the minister plans to speak to the Economics Committee about “the critical connection between protecting the environment and the use of gas and reducing air pollution,” without voicing opposition to the natural gas outline.
The Economics Committee has been holding a series of meetings to discuss a decision by Netanyahu, in his capacity as economy minister, to invoke Article 52 of the Antitrust Law, which allows the minister to overrule an antitrust commissioner’s opposition to an agreement if it is a matter of national security. The law states that the committee may advise the minister; the advice is not binding.
Netanyahu is expected to appear before the committee in the coming weeks.