Photo Credit: Moshe Shai / Flash 90
The Tamar natural gas rig 24 km off the coast of Israel (archive).

Energy Minister Karine Elharrar announced Monday that she has decided to cancel her previous decision (December 15, 2021) to cancel all searches for natural gas in 2022.

Instead, Elharrar has now decided to allow energy companies to launch a fourth exploration for natural gas in Israeli territorial waters.


The initial cancelation came as an effort to pressure Israeli companies to focus on renewable energy.

But that move is being set aside now in light of Europe’s need for natural gas and other resources, due to the war in Ukraine which has resulted in sanctions being imposed on Russia — a major energy supplier.

Israel Hammers Out Deal to Supply Natural Gas to Europe via Egypt

Israel has been negotiating for weeks to reach an agreement to sell natural gas to Europe via Egypt. Elharrar met in late March with European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson in Paris to discuss the issue. At that time, the Europeans said if they could not find alternatives, “they would return to coal mining, despite the great environmental damage caused by it,” according to JNS.

“The State of Israel is pitching in and helping Europe diversify its energy sources,” Elharrar said at the news conference Monday where she made the announcement.

“The global energy crisis provides an opportunity for the State of Israel to export natural gas, along with the honest and real concern for what is going on in Europe,” she said.

Former Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz praised Elharrar for “wise decision” to cancel the freeze on gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea.

“The move from coal to natural gas in power plants decreases air pollution by 90 percent and greenhouse gases by half, and therefore Europe was correct in backtracking and designating natural gas as green energy,” Steinitz commented.

“At this point, after the global energy crisis and the wild price rises, we have a golden opportunity to become significant energy providers for Europe – and the Energy Minister was correct in having the courage to renege on a prior decision, something that is not simple to do,” he said.

Elharrar framed the move as one that was consistent with her prior decision to focus on renewable energy — ignoring the decision to halt natural gas exploration as a direct result.

“According to my policy, during the past year the Energy Ministry focused on developing renewable energies and removing regulatory and bureaucratic barriers in order to alleviate the connection to renewable energies and consolidate a solid foundation for continuing massive advancement of connectivity to renewable energies,” she said.

A bit more realistically, Energy Ministry director-general Lior Shilat added that geopolitical events in the world, and the resulting energy crisis, “completely changed the energy sector.”

Shilat emphasized that Israel and Europe are in agreement that “the most important strategic move” to overcome the crisis is to “accelerate the development of renewable energies.”

However, he added, “one cannot ignore the global need for natural gas in the immediate and medium-range period. The Europeans were very clear in their statements that if they do not find enough alternative sources for the natural gas they need, some of the EU countries will be forced to revert to burning coal in order to supply energy.”

Shilat said it is “difficult to exaggerate” the importance of natural gas in cementing ties between Israel and Egypt, and “its influence on Israel’s geopolitical status in the Middle East.”

Energy Prices Rising at Home
Despite all the fanfare over increasing natural gas exports, it is important to note that the price of gasoline in the Jewish State is scheduled to rise, again, by Wednesday (June 1).

Gasoline Prices Rising Again in Israel

Israeli gas prices have skyrocketed by more than a shekel since January. This is the fourth time this year that gas prices have been raised, in addition to the three times the price was hiked in 2021.

In addition, the price of electricity rose by 5.7 percent to private consumers and by a whopping 10 percent to businesses on February 1.


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.