Thousands Across Israel Protest Natural Gas Framework Deal

Protests held in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Be'er Sheva, Kiryat Shmona and opposite Netanyahu's home in Caesarea.

Noa Shpigel
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Protest against natural gas deal opposite Netanyahu's home in Caesarea, July 4, 2015. Credit: David Bachar
Noa Shpigel

Thousands of demonstrators protested across Israel on Saturday against a framework deal for Israel's natural gas market, after its terms were revealed earlier this week.

In Tel Aviv, about 1,000 people gathered at Habima Square, chanting "robbery," and, "The public ain't dumb, gas is for everyone."

About 150 demonstrators protested in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Caesarea, hoisting signs reading: "Nationalization now," "Yallah Bibi, hit the gas," and "Outline of surrender: No energy independence, we deserve a better deal!"

"The situation here is that on the one hand, the government is pushing an outline – secretly, without keeping protocols or transparency – which is the result of secret negotiations with the gas companies," Or-li Barlev, one of the leaders of the protest, said.

"In this situation – this thing called an outline – isn't legitimate. I'm certain the state comptroller will comment in his report about issues of corruption as well," she added.

"The whole process is illegitimate. The outline safeguards the monopoly, robs the state from its energy reserves through increased exports, and the government is shedding its authority, its tools, facing the monopoly," she said.

In Be'er Sheva, about 150 demonstrators also staged a protest against the framework. Shani Michael, one of the organizers of the protest, told Haaretz: "We demand transparency, we demand the gas will be sold for a fair price, like in the U.S., for $2.7. There's no reason that gas should be more expensive here. The gas should go to factories in the south, in order to fight unemployment in the Negev. This could help welfare and housing, and there's no reason only a few should reap the benefits."

Demonstrations were also scheduled for Jerusalem and Kiryat Shmona.

Netanyahu agreed to release the terms of the framework after failing to enlist a Knesset majority to approve the deal, safeguarding it from anti-trust scrutiny in the future. The government has come under fire for reaching terms with gas firms with little public input.

The terms, many of which had been leaked even before National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz revealed them at a press conference on Tuesday, have come under sharp criticism for failing to break up the market power of Delek Group and Noble Energy, the two companies that control the lion’s share of Israel’s natural gas reserves.