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Israel: Government votes to bypass Antitrust Commisioner on gas

 |  June 28, 2015

The Israeli cabinet voted to override decisions made by the Antitrust Authority that would have limited its ability to implement a controversial agreement on the country’s natural gas on Sunday.

Antitrust Authority chief David Gilo is a vocal opponent of the draft agreement between the Israeli government and the gas companies in its current form. He, along with other critics, says that it would leave too much power in the hands of US company Noble Energy and the Israeli Delek Group, which jointly hold most of the shares in gas reservoirs off Israel’s shores.

A clause in the Antitrust Law, clause 52A, grants the economy minister the exclusive power to override decisions by the Antitrust Authority chief on issues with sensitive strategic or diplomatic implications. On all other issues, the Antitrust Authority chief’s decisions are binding.

Economy Minister Aryeh Deri, who would have had the power to overrule Gilo, announced last week that he would not exercise his authority, forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring the matter to a cabinet vote.

During the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “determined” to push through the deal for the development of the country’s natural gas.

Earlier Sunday, Deputy Attorney General Dina Silber announced that she saw no reason to disqualify Netanyahu from handling the issue.

On Saturday evening, thousands of protesters marched in Tel Aviv against the government’s handling of offshore gas reserves, blocking roads and chanting slogans, sparking low level clashes with police.

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