Monday, March 28, 2016

Israel's Supreme Court rejects gov't's gas deal

Israel's Supreme Court rejected a controversial deal Sunday denying a U.S.-Israeli consortium from developing Israel's natural gas fields.

The deal which was signed last year, gives the Texas-based Noble Energy company and Israel-based Delek Group control over Israel's largest gas fields.

A panel of five judges ruled against the deal, saying that the deal's main article prevents any change to it in the next decade which is "unconstitutional."

The dubious "stability clause" drew severe public criticism as preventing future governments from making changes to the deal would lead to a monopoly, according to competitors who believe the clause would substantially elevate gas prices.

However, the judges accorded the government one year to amend the deal, otherwise, it will be cancelled.

In an unprecedented move, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared before the court during deliberations in an attempt to persuade the judges not to alter the deal as the decision proved to be a major setback to Netanyahu's gas policy.

Following years of political discord, Netanyahu signed a long-awaited deal in December 2015 which permitted both Noble and Delek to develop the Leviathan and Tamar gas fields in return for the sale of two minor fields.

The Leviathan is a colossal 622 billion cubic meters gas reservoir, discovered off Israel's Mediterranean coast in 2010.

The adjacent smaller Tamar gas field commenced production in March 2013.

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