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December 17, 2015 10:33 am

After Long Battle, Netanyahu Bypasses Antitrust Authority to Adopt Gas Deal

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Natural gas from Israel's Tamar field began flowing to customers in 2013. Photo: Screenshot / Youtube.

A gas rig off the Israeli coast. Prime Minister Netanyahu chose to use his legal prerogative to adopt a new regulatory framework for Israel’s burgeoning natural gas industry. Photo: Screenshot / Youtube. – After a long legislative fight with the Knesset’s opposition members and some in his own governing coalition, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose Thursday to use his legal prerogative to adopt a new regulatory framework for Israel’s burgeoning natural gas industry.

Netanyahu used the powers vested in him under Article 52 of the Antitrust Law, which allows the prime minister to bypass the Israel Antitrust Authority when there are overarching national security and foreign policy considerations. A former Israeli antitrust commissioner, David Gilo, had opposed the gas deal.

“We must hit the gas pedal,” Netanyahu said Thursday at a special signing ceremony. “We want to pump gas into Israel, into the economy, for the benefit of Israelis. This is a gift from God and it will turn us into an energy powerhouse.”

The proposed outline seeks to regulate the development, harvesting, and royalties from Israel’s Leviathan, Tamar, Tanin, and Karish offshore gas fields, as well as any future natural gas finds. The Leviathan field, discovered in 2010 some 81 miles west of Haifa, holds an estimated 22 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

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Opponents of the new framework say it caters to tycoons by letting them use the gas mainly for export, while selling the rest at an inflated price to the domestic market.

Netanyahu has long insisted that the proposed framework, while not ideal, is essential for ensuring Israel’s energy needs. He said the framework is crucial for Israel to maintain a robust energy sector and tap the full potential of the offshore gas fields.

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