Netanyahu to Testify in High Court on Gas Deal

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seen during a tour in Ramat Chovav industrial zone in the Southern Israel on December 17, 2015, on the day he signed the natural-gas deal at a ceremony in Ramat Chovav. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seen during a tour in Ramat Chovav industrial zone in the Southern Israel on December 17, 2015, on the day he signed the natural-gas deal at a ceremony in Ramat Chovav. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The natural gas deal is not a done deal. Not yet.

Before it is, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will have to testify – in writing and in person – before the High Court, which will then rule on the legality of the agreement which the petitioners claim violates anti-monopoly law.

The state on Wednesday made the unprecedented request that the prime minister be allowed to defend the agreement, which he personally authorized in his capacity as Economy Minister.

The court gave Netanyahu two days to submit a written statement, and said he could come to testify in a hearing soon after.

Netanyahu signed the controversial deal December 17, after months of difficult negotiations with the energy companies and contentious debate in the Knesset and the media. But that was followed immediately by five separate petitions filed with the High Court opposing it on a range of legal issues.

Petitioners including the Zionist Camp and Meretz parties have accused the government of, among other things, a giveaway of national resources to private corporations.

Meanwhile, development of the offshore gas fields remains stalled, and Netanyahu has taken the position that speedy implementation of the agreement is a national priority.