Israel Govt approves New Gas Framework
Israel's PM, Benjamin Netanyahu
Israel's government approved May 22 the amended version of the natural gas regulatory framework, which now faces just the threat of another judicial referral. Only one minister, Avi Gabay, voted against it, and he also voted against the original version, one of whose clauses, the notorious stability clause, was struck down by the High Court of Justice.
Two other ministers, the finance minister and the works and pensions minister, abstained, both because of "conflict of interests". They are friends with Kobi Maimon, a mysterious billionaire who is regarded as the controlling shareholder in Isramco which holds 29% stake in Tamar gas field.
"The amended gas framework incorporates within it the Justices' comments," prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during the government weekly meeting. "The most important thing now is not to be delayed, to move forward and bring that gas. I think it is an important step even historic to the Israeli economy and in particular to the citizens and we use the present given to us nature to the benefit of the state and its citizens."
Yossi Abu, the CEO of Delek Drilling and Avner, responded to the government decision in a press release. "The government’s approval of the Gas Framework gives a tremendous boost to our ongoing activity to promote the development of the Leviathan reservoir, and we are taking decisive action for Israeli gas to flow from the reservoir in as early as the end of 2019.”
However, a few hurdles are still looming. One is the possibility that another petition to the High Court of Justice might be submitted. Another one is the upheaval in Israel's political scene: last week Netanyahu tried to reshuffle his government by appointing a new minister for defence.
The new appointment is Avigdor Liebermann, who is an ultranationalist politician, heading a six-member faction in the parliament. Lieberman is of Moldovan descent and his party represents Russian immigrants who live in Israel.
However on May 23, four days after the reshuffle was unveiled, the coalition talks stumbled into a deadlock; and if a solution is not found soon, the government's drive to accelerate gas activities may lose its impetus.