An agreement over the financial future of Israel's gas fields passed a vote in the Knesset Monday by a vote of 59-51, inspiring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stand up in applause as the results were announced.
"This is a great day for the State of Israel," said Netanyahu after the vote. "I am committed to bringing the gas to the Israeli economy, the hundreds of billions for the education, social welfare and health of Israel's citizens, and tens of billions for investment and jobs."
The deal constitutes an agreement between the government and two major companies, Delek and Noble, to allow for the production and sale of natural gas found off of Israel's coast several years ago.
Critics of the deal have called Delek and Noble's ownership of the gas fields a duopoly, and called on the government to strike a deal with the business giants that would introduce greater competition into the market, hopefully lowering prices for Israelis, and making the product more competitive in the international market.
The details of the deal were released by negotiator and Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz in June, revealing that domestic prices would be limited and Israelis would maintain a 70 percent stake in Leviathan, the larger of Israel's two gas fields.
Netanyahu claimed Sunday that negotiators had answered all the opposition's concerns. They told us at the outset: "We have not seen the outline so we opened the outline," said the prime minister. "They told us to improve it; we improved it. They told us to submit it to the Cabinet; we did so and it was approved. They told us to submit it to the Knesset and we approved it by majority vote."
Circumventing the CirumventionThe deal however, still faces one last challenge.
After failing to secure a majority, Netanyahu delayed an additional Knesset vote to pass responsibility from Economy Minister Aryeh Deri, to the government for signing and implementing the deal.
Deri initially refused to make use of Article 52 of the Antitrust Law which would have allowed him to circumvent the antitrust regulator and approve the agreement with the gas companies.
His refusal spurred the government to approve a shift in responsibility to the Cabinet in June, but Netanyahu has repeatedly delayed a Knesset vote on the issue.
"There is one more obstacle but when I want to achieve something, I achieve it," said Netanyahu Monday. "There will be gas for Israel. We are moving forward step by step and overcoming one obstacle after another."
Sources in the Zionist Union however, weren't convinced.
"After the path through Deri to circumvent the antitrust regulator was unsuccessful, Netanyahu behaved like a common criminal and tried to blackmail and threaten coalition members and the opposition in order to circumvent the economy minister as well," said one Zionist Union member.