The Opposition humiliated Binyamin Netanyahu's government Monday as the ruling Coalition appeared unable to obtain the required majority for a key deal that would allow the development and exploitation of large natural gas fields that have been discovered off Israel's shores.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz called on the Knesset Monday to support a deal that would allow Israel to receive natural gas from the gas fields, including the huge Leviathan field. As the stormy plenum debate raged, it appeared that the deal would come up for a “symbolic” vote, in which the government expects to have a majority, but another vote on a key procedural matter would not be held since the Coalition does not appear to have the required votes.
The party preventing the government from achieving the required majority on the procedural matter is reportedly Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu.
"The energy companies, banks and investors from the world over are looking at the Israeli Knesset today,” said Steinitz. “After many switches and changes and mishaps and repeats and offers and retreats – we expect today to see the Israeli Knesset supporting the gas deal, after years of delays.”
"While other countries found gas and oil fields in the 60, 70s and 80s," Steinitz recalled, "in beautiful Israel, nothing was found. And then, five or six years ago, at last, after decades of disappointments, two large gas deposits were found in Israel's economic waters – Tamar and Leviathan. The deposits could have put billions, and tens of billions, into the state's coffers. But the Leviathan deposit that was discovered five years ago – what happened with that natural treasure since then? Nothing. This natural treasure is still sitting there… The entire state, instead of launching a formula of the kind that I am launching today, which will enable the development of the deposits, instead of launching the formula a few years ago, we were busy with countless arguments, squabbles between various regulators.”
"We could have already had a Leviathan producing gas for export and for Israel,” he continued. “If we had treated it as an emergency plan. If we had solved all the problems, we would have received billions for education and welfare. We could have had energetic security. But it didn't happen.”
The Opposition has repeatedly stymied the gas deal, under the pretext that it gives too much of the profits from the gas to the "tycoons" who discovered it, instead of giving them to Israeli citizens.