Israeli PM, “We must have several offshore gas rigs as one of the fundamentals of our national security.”
• Energy & Water Resources Minister Yuval Steinitz, “The only way to create energy security, especially when considering potential hostilities, is to have 2 or 3 separate fields.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared Tuesday before the Knesset’s Economics Committee, which discussed the natural gas industry framework, and explained the importance and contribution multiple production sites would have to Israel’s energy and national security.
The proposed outline seeks to regulate the development, harvesting, and royalties pertaining to the Leviathan, Tamar, Tanin and Karish offshore fields, as well as any future natural gas finds.
Netanyahu, who is also acting economy and trade minister, appeared before the committee to answer its questions on whether the government should be allowed to exercise a controversial article in Israel’s Antitrust Law that would allow it to circumvent the Antitrust Authority’s concerns on the matter.
“Suppose Israel had only one power plant, like the Rabin Power Plant in Hadera, for example,” the prime minister said. “We have 15 power plants, but suppose there was only one. I promise you we would guard it with everything we have, because if it’s crippled, the entire country shuts down.”
The Hadera power plant, one of the biggest in central Israel “was the target of direct rocket fire, as were others [power plants], and as we all know, this rocket fire will only become more sophisticated,” Netanyahu said. “We know how to defend these sites, but just imagine we pool everything at one site, one power plant. That’s irresponsible and very dangerous.
“None of us thinks concentrating all of our power plants in one place is wise. The same goes for the offshore gas rigs. If the gas supply is compromised the entire country could be crippled. The gas rigs are very vulnerable, much more vulnerable that having a pipeline running over a gas field — they’re a prime target.”
The prime minister explained that the government believes a “redundancy defense” would best serve Israel’s interests, saying: “We must have several offshore gas rigs as one of the fundamentals of our national security. This outline is the only way to create redundancy in several fields. The Defense Ministry has presented us with a clear position on this matter.”
Economics Committee chairman MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) urged the prime minister to “pursue another course of action. Government officials have appeared before the committee and admitted that the stability of the other regimes in the region has nothing to do with natural gas, and while this represents an economic opportunity, it’s not a strategic security issue. Therefore, there’s no real justification to exercise Article 52,” he said, referring to the controversial clause that allows the government to sideline the Antitrust Authority.
Netanyahu countered: “We seek to cement Israel’s energy security. I maintain that ensuring gas supplies is crucial not only for Israel to function, but in the long-run, for its existence.”
National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud), who participated in the meeting, noted: “As energy minister I can’t guarantee Israel’s energy, not at a reasonable level, if all the gas flows through only one field, Tamar; one offshore field, one pipe, one rig. The only way to create energy security, especially when considering potential hostilities, is to have two or three separate fields. The current outline is the only realistic model. I’m proud of this outline. Most professional government officials share this opinion, including the Bank of Israel.”
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MK Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Union) told Netanyahu and Steinitz their logic was flawed, noting the negotiation on gas exports to Egypt have deadlocked, and that Israel has been able to develop Tamar regardless of the proposed framework.
Yachimovich said: “Why do you keep saying that the gas is stuck underground? Gas from Tamar has been flowing for two years now, and it will last for 15 years. You say this outline pushes gas harvesting, so why doesn’t it mandate a second pipeline?”
Netanyahu replied: “We’re in danger of no one wanting to invest [in offshore developments]. That’s why we have undertaken this grueling journey. We are at the end of the tether. This constant meddling is damaging the Israeli economy’s reputation worldwide.”
Opposition Leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) questioned the need to exercise Article 52 of the Antitrust Law, saying: “A monopoly has been created because the government was negligent in its licensing policies. We should have told the investors — the government is sovereign and it will regulate prices. But you’ve never done that, not with oil [prices] and not for the food market, and suddenly, you want to break all the rules and exercise an outdated article meant to protect Israel’s security interests in extreme situations?”
Herzog later told Army Radio the opposition plans a High Court of Justice appeal, contending that the natural gas industry outline is based “on the government’s desire to exercise an article that hasn’t been applied since Israel’s inception.”
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