Likud is considering postponing the plenum vote on a resolution that would give the government authority to circumvent an anti-trust law and sign a deal with the entrepreneurship monopoly that is producing offshore natural gas in very large quantities.
The government is facing a possible defeat in the vote, since three ministers are insisting that they do not want to take part in the vote because of their own personal connections with senior members of the gas monopoly. In addition, it has become known that opposition party Yisrael Beytenu intends to vote against the measure.
The ministers who intend to abstain are Kulanu's Moshe Kahlon and Yoav Galant, and Likud's Haim Katz. Kahlon is a friend of businessman Kobi Maimon, and owner of Isramco, which holds 29% of the Tamar field. Haim Katz is also close to Maimon and holds stock in oil prospecting firm Isramco. Galant retired a year ago from a job at the head of drilling firm Nammax Oil and Gas.
The debate on the measure will probably be held Monday in any case, but if the government is not certain of victory, the vote will be postponed to a later date.
US giant Noble Energy and its Israeli partner Delek have played a dominant role in producing gas from the Leviathan and Tamar offshore gas fields. The new compromise deal is thought to include a sort of amnesty for Noble and Delek, essentially letting them off the hook for establishing a natural gas cartel, while implementing measures to break apart that monopoly.
Opposition to the deal with the monopoly comes from Israel's Left, which wants the government to own a large portion the gas facilities, despite the fact that the private firms were the ones that took risks and invested their money to find the gas fields.
Economically conservative voices have been warning that if Israel does not hurry up and sign a deal with the entrepreneurs, they will pull out of their investments and Israel will be left with nothing.