No grounds to stop Netanyahu from deciding on natural gas issue, AG rules

Israel’s Deputy Attorney General, Dina Zilber, said Sunday that there were no legal grounds for prohibiting Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu from overseeing natural gas regulations, despite the recent discovery of the premier’s communications about the subject with his associate American Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

After Haaretz revealed details of their messages, various MKs including Meretz chairperson Zehava Galon and Joint Arab List MK Dov Khenin approached the attorney general with a demand that Netanyahu be stripped of the authority to make decisions about Israel’s natural gas.

The documents revealed that last summer Adelson encouraged Netanyahu to streamline Israel’s gas regulations. Adelson wrote the letter to the prime minister on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S.-Israel Business Initiative, which he chairs, and which includes among its members Noble Energy, the company that obtained most of the control over the gas fields along Israel’s coastline. Netanyahu is currently trying to advance a controversial compromise agreement with Noble Energy and the Delek group, the cartel which operate the countries’ offshore natural gas fields.

On Sunday morning, Zilber answered Galon, stating that she considers Netanyahu fit to continue overseeing the matter. “After examining the evidence, our position is that there are no grounds for disqualifying the prime minister from dealing with the natural gas issue,” wrote Zilber to Galon, explaining “first, the prime minister stated that he has never spoken to Sheldon Adelson about Israel’s gas policies, neither directly nor through an intermediary. Second, the inquiry sent to the Prime Minister’s Office and signed by Sheldon Adelson was sent by an organization working under the American Chamber of Commerce, and did not pertain to Adelson’s private business interests. Third, the framework for dealing with natural gas has been compiled through the cooperative efforts of a large team of government officials from various ministries and relevant authorities. Fourth, decisions pertaining to the advancement or approval of policies are not expected to be made by the prime minister alone.”


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