The Cabinet approved Sunday morning to transfer to itself the Economy Ministry's authority under Article 52 of the 1988 Restrictive Trade Practices Act, regarding actions related to Israel's natural gas fields.
This is the power to prevent the antitrust commissioner from interfering in a "restrictive agreement" – in this case as related to Israel's natural gas development – for reasons of foreign policy or national security.
"Last week, the Cabinet unanimously approved the expedited development and expansion of the natural gas fields that have been discovered off Israel's coast," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said during the meeting.
"I am determined to advance a realistic solution that will bring gas to the Israeli economy," he stressed. "I will not capitulate to populist proposals that will leave the gas deep underground."
"We have already seen enough countries that succumbed to these pressures and the gas has remained in the ground. This cannot be allowed to happen here."
"The outline that has been formulated breaks up the monopoly," the Prime Minister argued. "In the coming decades it will put hundreds of billions of shekels into education, culture, health and many other things for the benefit of all Israeli citizens."
"After years of discussions, the time has come to decide so that the gas will emerge from the ground and reach the Israeli economy and the citizens of Israel," Netanyahu concluded.
Thousands of protestors demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Saturday night against an outlined compromise between government officials and natural gas companies, demanding price controls on natural gas and full transparency of government discussions with these companies.