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What’s the deal over Israel’s natural gas deal?

In a historic and brave ruling, the High Court of Justice accepted our position and suspended the contentious offshore natural gas deal due to the illegal stability clause. The Judges ruled that "the government has illegally departed from the boundaries of discretion". The government now has a year to fix the contested clause or the gas deal will be cancelled.

 

Israelis have taken to the streets to protest the biggest social, economic and political fight of the year: the government’s proposed deal for quickly extracting offshore natural gas.

The gas deal has become a big issue for Israel’s democracy and threatens the security of Israel’s gas supply for future generations.  

 

 

 

Are you confused about Israel’s natural gas deal? If natural gas is good for the environment, why are we opposing the government’s deal?

 

We talk to Amit Bracha, Executive Director, to make sense of the deal and discuss why it’s bad for Israel’s democracy and energy future.

 

1. What’s the most important aspect about the gas deal?


The key is the amount of gas earmarked for the Israeli market. Adam Teva V’Din is less interested in the monopolistic aspect of the deal; we think that if the monopoly has good oversight the result will not necessarily be any worse than if free competition were ensured. The deal comes with a 25-year reserve of gas. But then what? According to the deal, any additional gas discovered can be exported. We’re saying the 25 years isn’t enough, because gas is needed not only for industry and energy but also for transportation. Nobody is talking about gas for transportation. The Tzemach Committee, which recommended exporting the gas, did not include a single representative from the Transportation Ministry. We were flabbergasted. I hope that the next Knesset will be more environmentally conscious, but even if it is, it won’t be able to change a thing if the stability clause isn’t removed.

 

 
2. Let’s talk about the contested stability clause.


It’s highly problematic. The clause says that future Israeli parliaments will not be able to change the terms of the deal. It ties the hands of future Knesset and prevents environmental legislation concerning the natural gas market. This anti-democratic, anti-constitutional clause goes against Israel as a leading democracy and is the heart of our petition.

 

3. In other words, the deal doesn’t only harm Israel’s democracy, it also harms Israel’s environment.


Exactly. It will be impossible to promote any legislation. When it comes to the sea, things are already chaotic – there are lots of conflicting pressures and interests. The natural gas deal will make it impossible to establish a marine authority that can prepare a national plan for the sea or to pass any legislation having to do with the sea.

 


4. Last month, Prime Minister Netanyahu personally testifed before the Court as the Economy Minister. He claimed that opposition by civil organizations will stop the development of the gas reserves and will put Israel’s national security in the balance.


The government says that Israel’s national security depends on energy security. That’s what we have been saying for 25 years. But, this deal will NOT ensure Israel’s energy security. On the contrary, it will threaten the security of Israel’s gas supply for future generations. If the government truly believes in Israel’s energy security, it should be investing in clean energy solutions, including renewable energies and a national energy efficiency plan. We will do everything in our power to stop the deal and continue to promote Israel’s energy security through clean energy solutions. 

 

 

In a nutshell:
The government’s proposed deal for the offshore natural gas industry earmarks all future gas finds for export instead of local use and, due to an anti-democratic stability clause, ties the hands of future governments to change environmental legislation concerning the natural gas market.

 

The controversial deal was signed in December 2015 after PM Netanyahu used an obscure clause to override anti-trust objections, allowing it to be pushed through by the economy minister – a position he holds. In Februrary 2016, the Supreme Court discussed our petition against the deal. Netanyahu, as the Economy Minister, personally testified before the Court to defend the government’s policy.

 

In a historic and brave ruling, the High Court of Justice accepted our position and suspended the contentious offshore natural gas deal due to the illegal stability clause. The Judges ruled that "the government has illegally departed from the boundaries of discretion".

 

The government now has a year to fix the contested clause or the gas deal will be cancelled.

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