Netanyahu to Push Israel Natural Gas Plan No Matter What Knesset Panel Says

Prime minister held dialogue of the deaf with Knesset Economic Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Yuval Steinitz, December 8, 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s appearance before the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee on Tuesday was a dialogue of the deaf about the government’s natural gas policy.

The prime minister’s appearance was in his additional capacity as economy and industry minister, a portfolio he acquired after his predecessor in the post, Shas leader Arye Dery refused to bypass the Antitrust Commission when it comes to concerns over monopoly control of the country’s gas reserves. [See details above]. Netanyahu appeared before the committee, as the law requires when the override of the antitrust commission is invoked, for “consultations,” but the consultations were only for the record.

Netanyahu was smiling and full of self-assurance. He prepared well for his committee appearance and throughout his remarks and in nearly all of his answers to committee members’ questions, he took pains to mention security and foreign policy considerations for approval of the policy plan, as they are the only grounds on which the law allows the economy minister to override the Antitrust Commission.

Although the four members of Netanyahu’s Likud party on the 24-member committee expressed support for the plan, opposition Knesset members demanded answers on the shifting geopolitical situation in Egypt and other neighboring countries, which the MKs claimed required a rethinking of the plan, and also pressed him on the matter of competition and laying of an additional gas pipeline to shore.

But Netanyahu only answered the questions that he wanted to, although he insisted he was responding in full. He will not be deterred from proceeding with the plan. The committee’s concluding session is scheduled for next week, and its chairman, MK Eitan Cabel, is expected to develop recommendations for the approval of the panel, on which the opposition has a majority.

But Netanyahu can ignore the recommendations from the consultation. Next stop: responding to petitions over the plan that are filed with the High Court of Justice. Netanyahu’s testimony before the committee already contained his response to the court.