MK Shalom Makes Italian Trip for Netanyahu During Crisis

YERUSHALAYIM -
Minister of Energy and Water Silvan Shalom. (Miriam Alster/ Flash 90)
Minister of Energy and Water Silvan Shalom. (Miriam Alster/ Flash 90)

ENI seeks deal for Israeli gas

Minister of Energy and Water Resources Silvan Shalom has had to step in for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a trip to Rome to meet with political leaders and energy executives about a major natural gas deal.

Shalom left for a four-day visit to Italy on Sunday, stepping in for Netanyahu, who was forced to stay home because of the regional crisis. Over the last few days, Netanyahu has reportedly been immersed in “security consultations,” either with the seven-member security cabinet, or high level security briefings.

Netanyahu was slated to meet Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta and Secretary of State John Kerry, who had planned to be there at the same time. Kerry met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in London on Monday.

Italian energy giant ENI has taken an active interest in the prospect of transporting compressed Israeli gas to Cyprus, industry sources informed Globes on Monday.

ENI executives informed Shalom that it wants to enter the Israeli market, despite reports that it would not do so for fear of alienating clients in Arab countries.

ENI also holds oil and gas exploration licenses in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, and is bidding for Lebanese licenses. It has frequently been mentioned as a buyer of more Israeli oil and gas exploration licenses and other assets, but has held back, ostensibly out of concern about an Arab backlash in Libya, Tunisia, and other Arab countries where it does business.

Israel’s still-nascent energy export policy will be high on the agenda for the talks in Italy. An upcoming High Court ruling on petitions against the recent government decision to allow a large volume of gas exports could have a major bearing on any ENI deal.

Industry experts estimate that Israel could sell compressed natural gas to Cyprus at $10 per million British Thermal Units.