High Court slams Zionist Union’s late petition against gas deal
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High Court slams Zionist Union’s late petition against gas deal

Party should have presented appeal after deal was signed in December, justices reprimand

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Knesset Economics Committee Chair MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) in a committee meeting about the controversial natural gas deal, December 2, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Knesset Economics Committee Chair MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) in a committee meeting about the controversial natural gas deal, December 2, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Five justices on the High Court of Justice panel hearing petitions against the government’s natural gas framework castigated the opposition Zionist Union party Tuesday for waiting until mid-January to submit a petition against the deal.

They said the party should have lodged the appeal right after the government approved it in December, the Walla news site reported.

Three of the party’s MKs submitted the petition on Monday.

The framework, which the state signed on December 17, will allow a two-company consortium of Noble Energy and Delek to begin extracting gas from the massive Leviathan gas field off Israel’s coast.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has argued it will bring hundreds of billions of shekels into state coffers, critics say they fear regulations favor the companies over Israeli consumers.

The “issues are well known” and the presentation of other petitions was well publicized, the judges wrote. Despite this, they agreed to hear Zionist Union’s petition together with those of the Meretz Party and others early next month.

Zionist Union’s is the fourth petition against the deal. It urges the court to throw out the controversial framework, saying its legality is tenuous as it establishes a de facto duopoly over the nation’s strategic gas supply, and was passed via problematic constitutional procedures, including the resignation of then-economy minister Aryeh Deri in November, a step that enabled Netanyahu to become acting economy minister and override antitrust rules in order to ensure the deal’s passage.

The petition lists a catalog of purported legal flaws in the development of the deal, as well as its “extreme unreasonableness” and “disproportionality.” The government neglected basic issues in the natural gas market, the petition alleges, such as the problems of monopolistic pricing and the lack of energy security, and is now “trying to sell an illusion in the guise of a deal” that will not only not solve these problems, but will perpetuate them.

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