You know that summer has truly returned in Israel when thousands gather in Tel Aviv to protest consumer issues.
On Saturday night, the heat was on with a demonstration against the government’s latest deal to allow the Noble Energy – Delek Ltd. Group to move ahead with its development of Israel’s offshore gas fields.
Mor Gilboa, director of the Green Course environmental group and one of the organizers of the protest, contended that the deal “leaves us with exaggerated and outrageous natural gas prices that will not contribute to lowering the cost of living, to development of a strong local industry, to development of industry in the periphery, to reducing pollution.”
Zionist Union MK Professor Yossi Yona, a member of the opposition faction, added, “The current plan does not serve the public interest. [It] concentrates economic power in the hands of interested parties, among them foreign bodies, which means a strategic threat to Israel’s sovereignty.”
But on Friday before the protest, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denied allegations he was aiding and abetting the group in retaining power as a monopoly. Rather, he said, he was working to ensure the deal would bring prosperity to Israelis.
“I work for you, for the security of Israel and the welfare of all of its citizens,” Netanyahu wrote in a post on his Facebook page. He vowed in the post to keep his campaign promise to lower the cost of living using the country’s natural resources – including the natural gas that would come from the deal being negotiated with the group responsible for discovering and developing the Leviathan, Tamar and other gas fields in Israel’s Mediterranean waters.
Having discovered and begun the expensive process of developing the gas reservoirs, however, the two firms – Texas-based Noble Energy, and Israel-based Delek – have said they need to see a worthwhile return on the investment in order to continue the process.
The group was targeted last year by the Israeli Antitrust Authority for holding a monopoly on natural gas development in Israel, paralyzing the energy industry.
After months of uncertainty, Israel’s political-security cabinet put an end to the haggling on Thursday, unanimously approving a new compromise deal to allow the group to advance development of the fields.
The deal will allow the group to retain control over Leviathan, the world’s largest offshore discovery of natural gas in the past decade, among other concessions.