Minister of Energy and Water Resources Silvan Shalom has handed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his recommendations on the issue of gas exports and approving the Tzemach Report by the cabinet. In response to enquiries by "Globes" regarding media reports that the cabinet debate on gas exports had been postponed several weeks, energy ministry sources said that, "The cabinet debate has not been postponed because a date has not yet been set." Those same sources also said that there have been discussions over the past few days between officials at the energy ministry, Bank of Israel, finance ministry and other government figures, and the conclusions were contained in the minister's recommendations.
The main recommendation submitted to the cabinet will be to limit Israel's gas exports by leaving 500 billion cubic meters (BCM) or more as a strategic reserve to provide the country's needs for 25 years. The Tzemach Report had recommended 450 BCM. In the protocols of the Tzemach Committee that are about to be made available to the public, the finance ministry supported a far smaller strategic gas reserve.
Energy market sources believe that the gas export decision has been delayed because of Netanyahu and Shalom's desire to reach a broad consensus in the cabinet. At present, opposition to the report's recommendations is being led by Minister for Environmental Protection Amir Peretz who thinks that the strategic gas reserve should be raised from 450 BCM to 600 BCM.
In addition, sources inform "Globes" that Deputy Attorney General Adv. Avi Licht will seek a legal opinion on whether the government is authorized to make a decision by itself on limiting gas exports, or if the decision must be passed by the Knesset. The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee that meets today is demanding that the issue be passed by the Knesset due to the major financial significance of the subject and its repercussions for Israel's energy sector and the entire economy.
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