Israel’s cabinet Sunday approved Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plan to export 40% of Israel’s natural gas reserves, and increase the amount of gas to be kept for the domestic market to 540 billion cubic meters (BCM) by a vote of 18:3.
At the start of the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the decision hadn’t been taken lightly:
“We held serious, in-depth, significant discussions because we are delving into the depths of the sea, and made a decision about Israel’s gas economy,” he said.
“Israel has been greatly blessed – with gas in the Mediterranean Sea. This gas can meet two of our basic needs: One; is to move the local economy forward by consuming cheaper energy, the same section which can use gas. The second thing is to fill the state coffers with billions of shekels as a result of gas exports and the taxation that we will impose on it. The correct balance between the two is not self-evident. We discussed it, we discussed and we decided. I think that we found the correct balance. We were not swept away on the waves of populism that are washing over the country, the world, and we did the correct thing for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu continued.
Netanyahu further added: “The important thing now is to move quickly. We certainly understand that investors can lose hope. They can think that we have succumbed to populist pressures or endless bureaucracy. We want to move quickly. I want to tell you one basic thing: Without gas exports, there will be no local gas economy. These are the basic rules. The most basic understanding on how we produce gas from the water. Without gas exports, there will be no local market. This mistake, succumbing to populism, ‘Let’s keep our gas at home’ has been made by several countries and they keep their gas at home. It is buried under the ground or under the sea, beneath layers of populism and bureaucracy. We cannot do this. We must extract the gas. The correct balance between the local market and exports – this is what we will do today.”
The move to export such high rates of gas isn’t without its critics, however. Some ministers, including Labor MKs Shelly Yachimovich and Avishay Braverman, have threatened to turn to the High Court of Justice to appeal the decision.
On Thursday, Yachimovich told Israel Radio that such a decision would benefit Israel’s gas tycoons while denying the public the benefits of long-term energy independence.