Hundreds of Israelis Demonstrate in Protest of Plan to Export Natural Gas

At previous demonstrations, protesters clashed with police, but a large police presence kept the demonstrators in check on Saturday night.

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Roughly 400 people demonstrated in Ramat Gan on Saturday night, marching past the home of Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom, expressing their opposition to the recommendations of the Tzemach Committee, which was convened to oversee Israel's natural gas exports.

The demonstration was organized by groups calling for cancellation, or at the very least changes to the Committee's plan, which recommended exporting at least 53% of the natural gas reserve that was found off the coast of Israel.

A large police presence kept the demonstration in check. At previous demonstrations, protesters clashed with police, but dozens of police officers on the scene Saturday night prevented the protesters from getting too close to Shalom's house. Denied access to his home, the protesters marched up Jabotinsky street, and blocked off the entrance to the Ayalon freeway.

"The Israeli public is waking up, and beginning to realize that they're running off with our most important natural resource for the next few decades – our natural gas. If the plan is accepted by the government, we would lose 600 billion shekels," said one of the protest organizers.

"That's 300 thousand shekels per family – that could improve the quality of life for all of us, it could lower prices, it could be spent on education, social welfare, healthcare – that money could forge a totally new future for all of us. With each demonstration we've been getting more and more support from the public – the pressure is working, and we see that in the newspapers, and hear it in statements from Knesset members and government officials," he continued.

According to a statement published by the movement "Israel is dear to us," the protests have two main goals. One, that the decision to export gas be made by the Knesset, and not the cabinet, and the second goal is that any possible export be delayed for at least five years. "It's totally illogical that a financial decision worth twice the state's budget be made by the government, without a public, in-depth discussion in the Knesset," read the statement. The delay, according to the statement, is meant to hold off exports until "it's clear that this natural treasure discovered off of Israel's coastline will serve the financial needs of the Israeli public.

Israelis protesting plans to export natural gas.Credit: Moti Milrod

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