From The Times of Israel
Government representatives and opposition leaders clashed Wednesday during a hearing in the High Court over the legality of a controversial deal on Israel’s newly found gas fields in the Mediterranean.
In an unprecedented move, the state requested Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be allowed to personally present a defense of the agreement after the court ordered a substantive debate over the policy.
The court said Netanyahu would need to present a written statement within two days, and would be allowed to testify in a hearing soon after. Netanyahu was initially reported to be heading to the court in person on Wednesday to testify.
After months of intense debate and numerous bureaucratic and legislative hurdles, Netanyahu signed the controversial gas outline on December 17 but still faces opposition from opposition lawmakers and activists who claim the terms of the deal create a monopoly in the gas market and will lead to higher prices for Israeli consumers.
Five separate petitions have been filed with the High Court urging it to throw out the deal over a range of legal issues.
Netanyahu was able to sign the deal after invoking a never-before-used clause to override an antitrust ruling against the deal by declaring it an issue of national security.
Netanyahu was forced to pursue the use of “Clause 52” after then-antitrust commissioner David Gilo ruled that the Israeli-American Delek-Noble conglomerate that is developing the Leviathan gas field may constitute a monopoly, sparking a vociferous national debate on the terms given to the energy companies.
Former economy minister Aryeh Deri, not wanting to pay a political price for the gas deal but also not wanting to stand in its way, resigned his post last month, allowing Netanyahu to take over the ministry and sign the deal himself.