Thousands Protest Controversial Natural Gas Deal Across Israel

'Forget about right-left, Orthodox-secular, capitalism-socialism. Fairness should belong to everyone,' protesters say in weekly demonstration.

Thousands of Israeli's protest controversial natural gas deal across Israel. November 28, 2015.
Tomer Appelbaum

Thousands of people took part Saturday night in protesting against the government’s controversial agreement with major energy companies for the production of natural gas.

As in every Saturday night in recent weeks, rallies took place all over the country, including Tel Aviv, Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Ashdod and Jerusalem, as well as Atlit, Rosh Pina and Arad. An estimated 4,000 protesters gathered in Tel Aviv.

This is the first time the protests were broadcast live by dozens of protesters who were enlisted to “create the largest social-issue broadcast ever in Israel.”

LIVE: Thousands of Israelis protest natural gas deal across Israel

Protesters marching in the streets in the various cities blocked some thoroughfares to traffic.

Protesters carried signs decrying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who initiated the plan, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who has stepped back from dealing with it because of a conflict of interest, Negev and Galilee Development Minister Arye Dery, who recently resigned from his additional post as economy minister, so as not to block approval of the plan. Yitzhak Tshuva, the major shareholder in the Delek group, which owns all of Israel’s off-shore gas reserves, and Tshuva’s American partner, Noble Energy, were another target of the protesters, who denounced connections between government and big business.

Once Dery resigned as economy minister, the post passed to Netanyahu, in whose purview it is to invoke a clause that will allow the government to bypass the law against monopolies, citing security concerns as essential in passing the plan as it stands. It is expected that the legality of the move will be challenged in the High Court of Justice.

Thousands of Israeli's protest controversial natural gas deal across Israel. November 28, 2015.
Tomer Appelbaum

One of the speakers at Saturday night’s rally in Tel Aviv was Col. Ze’ev Raz, who headed the mission to bomb the Iraqi nuclear plant in 1981. “I, who was the one who was sent to protect Israel’s security and destroy the nuclear plant in Iraq, know that the plan is dangerous for IsraelThe gift this government is giving to a private monopoly – to control our energy in fact without supervision – is simply irresponsible.”

Another speaker in Tel Aviv was Erez Tzadok, a resident of the settlement of Elkana, who described himself as right wing, religious, a capitalist, hedge fund manager and lecturer on international finance, said he was against what he called the “gas monopoly plan” adding: “Forget about right-left, Orthodox-secular, capitalism-socialism. Fairness should belong to everyone. The gas plan is about fairness, in business, economics, fairness to the wealthy and to those without means, fairness is also the common denominator that everyone can unite around.”

At the protest near the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, the director general of the Social Economic Academy, Rami Hod said: “A direct line connects the gas plan, exemptions from taxes on international companies, our educational and health budgets that are among the lowest in the Western world and low salaries. They are all part of that same policy led by those in government.”

Speaking in Be’er Sheva, newly minted MK Yael Cohen Paran (Zionist Union) called the gas plan an “environmental attack,” and “robbery of a natural resource.”