Israelis protest against Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon
Tel Aviv - XINHUA
Thousands of Israelis protested in central Tel Aviv Saturday evening against a natural gas deal between the government and a U.S.-Israeli energy conglomerate, calling for better transparency.
Under a deal approved by the cabinet Thursday, the U.S. Noble Energy company and Israeli conglomerate Delek Group, both owned by Israeli tycoon Isaac Tshuva, gains the right to develop Israel's Tamar and Leviathan offshore reserves. The government is expected to submit the deal to the parliament for approval this coming week.
The protesters, gathering at a square in the center of Israel's largest coastal city, dubbed the deal as a robbery of the natural gas resources discovered in 2009 and 2010 off the shores of Israel.
The aim of the protest, according to the organizers, was to make their voice heard against what they charge as the lack of transparency in the deal making process.
The protesters also criticized parts of the upcoming deal published in local media as strengthening the control of the energy conglomerate over natural gas without proper regulation and with foreseen rise in prices for Israeli consumers.
Dr. Yossi Langotsky, a senior Israeli geologist responsible for the discovery of the "Tamar" gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, suggested that improprieties are involved in the deal.
"I won't be surprised if it would become known later down the road that those who made these unacceptable and outrageous decisions were bribed," he said while speaking in front of the crowd.
Earlier, local media reports said that the government agreed to a demand by the energy companies to raise the prices of natural gas for domestic prices, higher than the level the finance ministry demanded. In addition, the government also agreed not to regulate gas prices.
A month ago, head of the Israeli Anti-trust Authority, David Gilo, resigned for what he described the government's "refusal to end the monopoly on gas drilling."