The state’s rejection of the High Court’s recommendation that it pass a law to implement the natural gas deal was not surprising. But the vehemence with which it did so was.
In a formal reply to the court on Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit articulated their opposition on multiple grounds:
They argued, first, that the Cabinet does not need the Knesset to put the stability agreement with the energy companies into law.
The Knesset, they noted, has already addressed the gas deal. “The cabinet decision was brought for Knesset discussion on September 7, 2015, after which the Knesset approved the cabinet decision by a majority of 59 in favor to 51 against. It should be stressed that the supporters included opposition MKs. Full support greatly strengthens the democratic legitimacy of the cabinet’s decision and blunts significantly the sting from some of the petitioners that legislation is necessary in the stability issue.”
They reiterated Netanyahu’s position, stated personally before the judges last week, that the delay entailed by bringing the matter to the Knesset again could ruin the country’s prospects of developing the offshore gas fields for years and could expose Israel to a major lawsuit. It is, he said, an issue of national security, and must be moved forward as soon as possible.
The stability clause in the agreement, the state asserted, is a “reasonable arrangement in the current circumstances without which there would be serious concerns that it would not be possible to develop the natural gas fields.”