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Israel gas agreement moves another step nearer

The authority of Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon over the natural gas sector will be given to Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin at the upcoming cabinet meeting, sources inform “Globes.”

The transfer of authority is another step on the road to the natural gas plan, which has been treading water for several months. At the same time, another problem involving the authority of Minister of the Economy Aryeh Deri concerning the Antitrust Authority director general is still unsolved, so that as of now, the gas plan still cannot get underway. The transfer is a sign by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he is determined to go ahead with the plan.

The transfer of authority from Kahlon to Levin comes two weeks after Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber sent a detailed letter stating what authority Kahlon could not exercise due to a conflict of interest, due to his acknowledged friendship with gas tycoon Koby Maimon. “As a result of your statement that Koby Maimon is your close friend, you must refrain from personally dealing with affairs concerning him or his business,” Zilber wrote, adding, “The connection with Maimon prevents you from dealing with matters having a material effect on the interests of Isramco Negev 2 LP (TASE: ISRA.L) in the natural gas sector. To make it perfectly clear, on the subject of natural gas, you should avoid any involvement in aspects having an effect on the owners of holdings in the gas fields, even if they do not directly affect Isramco or the Tamar gas reservoir.”

Zilber’s instructions bar Kahlon from dealing with taxation of oil and gas profits, a matter currently under his responsibility, and with regulations governing production of oil and gas, and gas marketing, which is primarily the responsibility of the Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Resources, but certain matters relating to it require Kahlon’s approval. Another area of responsibility Levy will take from Kahlon is price controls in any matters pertaining to oil discoveries.

The political imbroglio will continue because Deri refuses to invoke Clause 52

Kahlon would like another minister from his party to receive his authority. He first sought to transfer it to Minister of Environmental Protection Avi Gabbay, but legal advice he obtained made it clear that this would be a problem, because Kahlon is chairman of Gabbay’s party and appointed Gabbay to his position, which could put Gabbay in a difficult position.

The third minister from Kahlon’s party, Yoav Galant, also has a conflict of interest in energy, and the Minister of Finance therefore had to agree to transfer his authority to Levin, who is acceptable to both him and to Netanyahu.

The transfer of authority is another aspect of the regulation of gas production and marketing, and is therefore significant for the gas agreement. This, however, will not solve the four-month political standstill in the government about Deri’s authority concerning the Antitrust Authority director general. Deri is refusing to exercise his authority under Clause 52 of the law, and has proposed bringing the subject up for discussion in the full cabinet, but no Knesset majority has been mustered for this measure, and no solution to the problem has yet been found.

In related news, Cypriot Energy Minister denies gas dispute with Israel.

This article was from Globes, Tel Aviv, Israel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.