Kulanu’s concerns about gas plan raise Likud’s ire

Steinitz says Kulanu must honor coalition agreement and coalition discipline.

Israel's natural gas (photo credit: MINISTRY OF NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURES)
Israel's natural gas
If Kulanu votes against the government’s natural gas deal, the Likud can vote against the budget, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) implied on Monday.
Despite the agreement, Kulanu has yet to commit to how it will vote on the plan, which Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay (who is not an MK) opposes and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Construction Minister Yoav Galant (both Kulanu) refuse to vote on because of financial conflicts of interest.
A spokeswoman for Kulanu faction chairman MK Roi Folkman said that since the plan has yet to be submitted to the Knesset for any kind of vote, the faction has not held a meeting to decide how whether it would support or oppose the proposal. She added that many of the MKs have problems with the deal as it stands.
Steinitz, however, said that there is a coalition agreement and coalition discipline, and Kulanu must honor both.
Kulanu’s coalition agreement states that the party will work in cooperation with the other coalition parties on all of its goals – both in the Knesset and in the cabinet, which approved the gas deal on Sunday despite Gabbay’s vote against it and Kahlon and Galant’s abstentions. The only exception listed in the agreement is if there is a bill to re-pass laws that were over - turned by the High Court.
Asked about the fact that the gas plan is not listed in the agreement, Steinitz told Channel 1: “That’s not important. There are a lot of articles in the budget that aren’t in the coalition agreement, either... Not all government decisions are in the coalition agreement and there are many cases in which one minister or more oppose a decision, but that’s how the government works. When there’s a government decision, it is binding for all coalition parties, without exception. No one in Likud has freedom to vote however they want on the budget and neither does anyone in Kulanu or Shas, and that is true about the gas, too, and about all government decisions,” he added.
The narrow coalition does not have a majority in favor of the gas plan in the Knesset, because Kahlon, Galant and Welfare Minister Haim Katz (Likud) refuse to vote due to conflicts of interest, leaving only 58 votes in favor even if the rest of Kulanu does not oppose the deal.
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman has said that his party supports the gas deal in principle, as it is sim - ilar to what the last govern - ment’s national infrastructure minister Uzi Landau – a member of the party – proposed. When the Knesset was scheduled to vote on a procedural matter related to the gas deal at the end of June, however, Liberman announced that his party would vote against the coalition. Proponents of the plan, therefore, remain wary of him.
The gas deal does not technically have to reach the Knesset, as it is not a bill. Antitrust Commissioner David Gilo, however, refuses to support it, which means that Economy Minister Arye Deri (Shas) would have to sign Article 52 of the 1988 Restrict Trade Practices Law (known as the antitrust Law), circumventing Gilo’s authority due to foreign policy or national security reasons in order for the outline to go into effect. Deri said that he would only invoke Article 52 if the Knesset approves the plan.
Steinitz still seemed to be holding on to hope that Deri would sign without a Knesset vote, however, saying on Monday that the plan “doesn’t have to be approved by the Knesset, but we will consider it.”