Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday called Israel a “nuclear power” before correcting himself mid-word to say “energy power.”
The premier’s comment came during the weekly cabinet meeting as he briefed ministers about the deal signed Thursday between Israel, Greece and Cyprus on Thursday for a huge pipeline project to ship gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe.
“We are transforming Israel into a nuclear power… energy power,” Netanyahu said.
Israel has never acknowledged possessing nuclear weapons, instead maintaining a policy of “strategic ambiguity.”
Foreign reports have put the size of Israel’s nuclear arsenal in the dozens to hundreds of weapons.
Under the gas deal inked last week, the 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) EastMed pipeline will be able to carry between nine and 12 billion cubic meters of gas a year from offshore reserves held by Israel and Cyprus to Greece, and then on to Italy and other southeastern European countries.
The discovery of hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has sparked a scramble for the energy riches and a row between Cyprus and Turkey, which occupies the northern part of the Mediterranean island.
Netanyahu, his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades joined the ceremony at which their respective energy ministers signed the deal in Athens.
“This a big day for Israel, which is becoming an energy power. We signed supply agreements with many neighbors, this strengthens the [Israeli] economy,” Netanyahu was quoted by the Kan public broadcaster as saying last week after the signing.
Agencies contributed to this report.