Israel's Long-Stalled Gas Plan Extricated From Impasse

  • Netanyahu to take over economy ministry from Aryeh Deri
  • Tel Aviv Energy Shares Rise as Gas Companies Stand to Benefit

The major obstacle to developing Israel’s natural-gas fields was swept away on Sunday when a cabinet minister who had held up the plan for months agreed to resign.

The Tel Aviv gas shares rallied the most in a week on the news, advancing 3.1 percent at 12:18 p.m., the biggest increase since Oct. 25.

Economy Minister Aryeh Deri, whose Shas party represents a working class constituency, had refused to exercise an emergency regulation that would have permitted the government’s proposed natural gas blueprint to move ahead despite opposition from the Antitrust Authority. The authority’s former commissioner, David Gilo, resigned in protest over the government’s plan in June, saying it doesn’t do enough to reduce the monopoly over Israel’s offshore gas fields held by a small number of companies headed by Texas-based Noble Energy Inc. and Israel’s Delek Group Ltd.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he will take over Deri’s responsibilities at the economy ministry. “Today we are taking a major step to advance the supply of gas in Israel,” Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “Gas will be the No. 1 engine for growth in Israel during the coming years.”

The gas discovered over the past six years off Israel’s Mediterranean coast is sufficient to meet the country’s energy’s needs for decades, with surplus for export, its developers say. They’ve signed deals to export fuel to neighboring Jordan, and are in negotiations to ship it to Egyptian plants where it would be converted to liquid natural gas for possible export beyond the Middle East.

Deri will remain in the cabinet as minister of the periphery, Negev and Galilee.

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