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Story by Reuters

Israel’s anti-monopoly regulator, who has been pushing to open the energy sector to competition, said on Monday he would step down in August, potentially lifting the pressure on exploration companies Noble Energy and Delek Group.

Antitrust Commissioner David Gilo caused an uproar in December when he ruled that Noble and Delek may constitute a monopoly over their control of two large natural gas fields Tamar and Leviathan.

In a stinging rebuke of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gilo, whose post is independent, said he was resigning because the government was pushing for a deal to speed up development of the gas field at the expense of bringing in new competition.

He did not, however, list details of what the deal would entail.

Tamar began producing gas two years ago, but development of Leviathan, the world’s largest offshore gas discovery of the past decade, has since been frozen.

Texas-based Noble and Israeli conglomerate Delek have been negotiating with the government to find a solution over which, if any, assets they would have to sell off.

“The government, especially the prime minister’s office and Finance and Energy Ministries, will do everything they can to promote the outline that is being drafted for the natural gas market – an outline I am convinced will not bring competition in this important market,” said Gilo, who has been in the post for more than four years.

While not directly related, the resignation of the regulator comes as Netanyahu has been shaking up the leadership of two ministries under his control.

Last week Netanyahu dismissed the director-general of the Communications Ministry and this week the director-general of the Foreign Ministry was also let go, to be replaced by a close Netanyahu confidant, Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.

Noble and Delek own 85 percent of Leviathan, which has with an estimated 22 trillion cubic feet (622 billion cubic metres) of reserves. Production had been expected to begin in 2018 following an initial investment in the development of around $6.5 billion.