(JNS.org) The Israeli government on Sunday approved the resignation of Aryeh Deri (Shas) as economy minister, paving the way for an offshore gas deal that had hit a snag.
The Israeli cabinet already approved the deal in August, in a 17-1 vote. The deal would set a price cap for natural gas sales to Israeli companies and require the gas companies to finish developing the Leviathan field by the year 2020. The deal would also resolve a pricing dispute in which former Israeli antitrust commissioner David Gilo had threatened to designate the Delek Group-Noble Energy partnership for operating Israel's offshore gas fields as a monopoly.
Despite the cabinet’s overwhelming vote in favor of the deal, the agreement’s implementation still requires the Israeli economy minister to invoke Article 52 of Israel’s 1988 Restrictive Trade Practices Law, which allows the circumvention of objections of an antitrust commissioner in matters of foreign relations or national security. Deri had refused to invoke Article 52, but his resignation means the deal now has a clear path.
Speaking at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “This is a significant step toward prompting [natural] gas supplies in Israel. Natural gas will be Israel’s No. 1 growth engine in the coming years. This means billions of dollars in investments in the next two years, and the creation of supporting industries, meaning jobs for the Israeli public.”
Deri will still head the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry, which the government voted to expand and rename the Negev, Galilee and Periphery Development Ministry.