Cabi­net chaos loom­ing over cru­cial gas deal

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

THE IS­RAELI prime min­is­ter is set to fi­nalise a con­tro­ver­sial new gas deal — but only if a cabi­net col­league resigns.

Benjamin Ne­tanyahu has been try­ing to push through a law that per­mits an Is­raeli-Amer­i­can en­ergy part­ner­ship to de­velop off­shore nat­u­ral gas fields in the face of anti-mo­nop­oly laws that would nor­mally block such an ar­range­ment.

Anti-trust com­mis­sioner David Gilo re­signed ear­lier this year af­ter the gov­ern­ment re­fused to ac­cept his rul­ing that the pro­posed deal did not en­sure suf­fi­cient com­pe­ti­tion in the en­ergy mar­ket.

This week, Eco­nom­ics Min­is­ter and Shas leader, Arye Deri, told Mr Ne­tanyahu he was pre­pared to re­sign and trans­fer his pow­ers to the prime min­is­ter, a move that would not only al­low Mr Ne­tanyahu to over­rule Mr Gilo’s de­ci­sion, which still stands, but also avoid putting the is­sue to a Knes­set vote, which he could lose.

Mr Gilo had rec­om­mended that the part­ner­ship of the Tshuva Group and No­bel En­ergy be forced to re­lin­quish own­er­ship of one of the largest two off­shore nat­u­ral gas fields.

In­stead, the gov­ern­ment has been push­ing a more grad­ual plan un­der which Tshuva-No­bel can re­tain own­er­ship of the fields for seven more years.

How­ever, some min­is­ters, who cite con­flict of in­ter­est, have been re­fus­ing to vote in favour of the deal. This means that the prime min­is­ter is not guar­an­teed a Knes­set ma­jor­ity.

Al­though Mr Deri backs the deal, he has re­fused to use his min­is­te­rial pow­ers to over­ride the com­mis­sioner’s ob­jec­tions. If he resigns, his pow­ers will re­vert to the prime min­is­ter, who could then push the frame­work through with­out need for a Knes­set vote.

The main ob­sta­cle re­main­ing is Mr Deri’s terms. He would like to swap min­istries with In­te­rior Min­is­ter Sil­van Shalom, who has so far re­fused to do so. An­other op­tion would be cre­at­ing a new min­istry for Mr Deri with pow­ers taken from other min­is­ters, all of whom are ex­pected to stren­u­ously ob­ject.

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