Israel’s Netanyahu to fast-track natural gas plan after minister resigns

He told Netanyahu he was not opposed in principle to leaving his cabinet post in favor of another, clearing the way for Netanyahu to appoint himself interim economy minister with the power to approve the deal.

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The Shas minister’s departure from the Economy Ministry will allow the gas outline, which was approved by the cabinet in July, to be implemented, because Deri refuses to invoke Article 52 of the 1988 Restrictive Trade Practices Law (the Antitrust Law), which allows an economy minister to circumvent the objections of an antitrust commissioner in matters of foreign relations or national security.

“Minister (Aryeh) Deri announced to me his intention to quit”. Production was expected to begin in 2018, but its development has been stuck by the controversy over the gas deal. The country’s antitrust commissioner, David Gilo, resigned in May to protest the deal.

The deal allows Noble and Israel’s Delek Group to keep control of the country’s major gas fields, Leviathan and Tamar, while forcing them to sell smaller fields. But exploiting the gas has turned out to be more complicated than anticipated, amid repeated disputes over pricing, export policies and how to split profits with energy companies developing the fields.

Deri has balked at giving the okay, but has also said he does not want to stand in the way of the energy deal, which Netanyahu has said could add hundreds of million of shekels to Israel’s coffers.

The impasse was the result of Deri’s concerns about providing such exemptions that could not be overlooked by Netanyahu as the support of the former’s party is crucial to Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition government, according to Reuters.

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“Deri’s resignation and the transfer of his authority to the Prime Minister could move the gas plan forward and avoid a legal battle with Noble Energy”, Mona Sukkarieh, an analyst at the Middle East Strategic Perspectives risk consultancy, told Agence France-Presse.

Israel economy minister resigns to allow major gas deal: PM