Israel’s Supreme Court rejects petition to halt Israel's natural gas exports
BY HILA RAZ
TEL AVIV (Haaretz) -- Israel's Supreme Court has rejected petitions appealing the government's decision to allow the export of 40 percent of the country's natural gas.
The justices ruled against the petitions in a quick vote of 5-2, without releasing an explanation–though said the details would follow after subsequent deliberation. In a deliberation held Sunday, four of the justices hinted that the petitioners had not managed to prove sufficiently that the government lacked the authority to allow such a decision.
The petitions had been submitted by a number of social-legal environmental organizations, claiming that the government was not authorized to bypass the Knesset in such an important decision that would affect the future of Israeli economy.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet in June approved the controversial plan to reserve 60 percent of Israel's natural gas for domestic use while letting the rest be exported. Ministers also approved a change that will entitle Jordan to start receiving gas exports immediately.
Eighteen ministers approved the plan, while three opposed. As a result, Israel will be assured around 540 billion cubic meters of gas over the next 25 years. According to the plan, Israel's gas reserves, estimated at 900 bcm, should remain at home for use by industry, transportation and consumers.
The High Court's ruling strengthens the government's export plan, said Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom.
"The decision we made was sensible and balanced and anticipated market needs, as well as the needs of future generations," he said. Shalom said the decision is likely bring lower electricity and water rates.
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich said she respects the court's ruling, but added that she will continue to fight, using public and legislative tools, to lower gas rates both for the industry and the citizens. "We call upon the public to continue being active… and not allow the government to sell our future," she said.
Delek Drilling and Avner Oil and Gas, who have stakes in all of Israel's natural gas discoveries, said in response to the High Court's decision that their companies "will act with determination, along with the government, to promote and develop the gas market for the good of the citizens of Israel."