Israeli PM Netanyahu credits G-d with making the Jewish State an energy superpower
Herzog pledges to bring matter to High Court of Justice.
Putting an end to nearly a year of squabbles that all but froze the nation’s natural gas sector, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday signed a legal clause to activate the sector’s long-disputed framework agreement.
While the gas framework in question – a deal aimed at settling disagreements between the developers and the government – received cabinet approval in August, the plans faced additional hurdles after failing to receive the approval of the antitrust commissioner.
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).
“We came, today, to provide gas to Israel, to the Israeli economy, to the Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said at the signing ceremony held at the Neot Hovav Industrial Park in the Negev. “The gas that was given to us as a gift from God found in the deep sea where we were given enormous gas reserves. They potentially transform us not just into an energy power, but certainly into an important international energy force with a very great capability – and we need to extract them.”
Although the prime minister signed off on Article 52 on Thursday – and thereby fully activated the gas outline – the deal may face additional hurdles prior to being implemented.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog made clear on Thursday that the Zionist Union intends to submit a petition to the High Court of Justice, arguing against Netanyahu’s employment of the legal clause.
“Signing off on the gas outline by means of Article 52 means using the name of Israel’s security in vain,” Herzog said at an event at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
“This is a cynical exploitation of security needs and serves interests that do not benefit the Israeli public. The Zionist Union faction will petition the High Court in the near future, with the goal of stopping this crooked process, in order to preserve the Israeli economy and restore the rights of the Israeli public.”
The necessity to employ Article 52 arose due to the refusal of then-antitrust commissioner David Gilo to support the outline. Gilo, who resigned in August over the issue, said the terms of the deal would stifle competition in the country’s natural gas sector. His successor likewise has refrained from backing the outline.
While Article 52 has never been implemented before, an economy minister can do so by citing national security or foreign policy interests.
After economy minister Arye Deri resigned from the position last month, Netanyahu gained the authority to activate the clause.
Before invoking Article 52, Netanyahu was required to conduct consultations with the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee, which ultimately involved 11 sessions of discussions on the subject among politicians and professionals in the sector.
Although the conclusions of the committee were not legally binding, its members voted by a narrow majority on Monday to recommend against Article 52’s activation.
Seven committee members from the opposition voted against recommending its use while six committee members from the coalition voted in favor.
Following the vote, Economic Affairs Committee chairman Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) accused Netanyahu of holding the consultations simply as a “procedural formality.”
On Wednesday, Cabel sent a letter to Netanyahu on behalf of himself and the committee members who had objected to Article 52’s use, outlining the reasons they felt he should not activate the clause.
“We were not convinced that at this time, as well as in the foreseeable future, that there are reasons of foreign policy and security that justify such an extreme measure as an administrative exemption from the law’s commands in the hands of the economy minister, while the supervision of monopolies and restrictive trade practices should be carefully controlled, in the manner determined by the Antitrust Law,” the letter said.
Regarding the Economic Affairs Committee consultations, Netanyahu expressed his disappointment on Thursday that the sessions became “a political and populist discussion.”
“The outline is essential; essential to our security because we do not want to stay with one power plant that is fired at, and we do not
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