Netanyahu Signs Article 52; Opposition Already Petitioning Supreme Court
In a ceremony held at an industrial park in Beer Sheva, southern Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, in his capacity as Economy Minister, signed article 52 to the antitrust law. In doing so, he sidestepped the antitrust commissioner to approve the natural gas regulatory framework and by doing so creating a monopoly in the Israeli energy market probably for decades to come.
"We came to press on the gas," said Mr. Netanyahu in a short speech before he signed the document. "It was given to us as a present by The Almighty. It turns us, maybe not into an energy superpower, but to an energy power. In order to lift [the gas out of the ground] we had to overcome many obstacles."
Mr. Netanyahu said he read the majority recommendation of the Knesset Economic Affair Committee which advised against signing article 52 but decided not to heed the advice. He accused opponents of the regulatory framework that the debate became politically motivated and even populist. "The framework is essential to our security… We don’t want to be left with only one gas rig and there isn't any chance to develop big gas fields without developing Leviathan," he said. "It gives us a relatively cheap energy source and it is also important to foreign relations. Many countries are interested in that--not only Greece, Cyprus but also Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Egypt and Turkey are also interested and we're discussing it with them. And of course west European countries."
He continued, "It is important to us. We had to overcome populist considerations…. Gas… [will create] jobs, lower costs and billions of shekels to social needs. Now I finish my speech, sign the paper and press on the gas for the state of Israel."
However, despite signing article 52, it was not the last obstacle in the framework's approval process. The Zionist Union, the biggest opposition party, already announced it will petition the approval to Supreme Court. It won't be the only body to petition, as a few other opponents have already announce their intentions. The first petition was filed just a few minutes after Mr. Netanyahu signed Article 52 by the leftist opposition party Meretz.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear the petitions at the beginning of February next year.