Court: Gas Export Program Can Continue - for Now

The High Court refused to issue an injunction preventing preparation for the export of Israeli natural gas

David Lev ,

Gas rig in the Mediterranean
Gas rig in the Mediterranean
Israel news photo: Flash 90

As of now, licensees of the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields have a green light to begin arranging for exports of several hundred billion cubic meters of gas, after the High Court on Sunday refused to issue an order to halt exports. The decision was given based on a petition filed by four MKs and several environmental and social policy groups who oppose the exports.

The groups had asked for an injunction on any efforts by the licensees to export gas until a thorough hearing of the matter by the Court. According to Justice Noam Solberg, preparing an infrastructure or system for export would not be greatly affected one way or the other at this point, since the licensees had a great deal of work to do if they wanted to export gas. “I don't how it makes an injunction would make much of a difference,” considering that the full hearing would take place at the end of July or the beginning of August.

The petition asked for a permanent injunction against exports and a nullification of the government decision several weeks ago to allow some 40% of Israel's proven reserves to be exported, demanding that the Knesset be the body to make the decision, if any, on exports. The MKs filing the petition included Shelly Yachimovich (Labor), Moshe Gafni (UTJ), Reuven Rivlin (Likud), and Avishay Braverman (Labor).

Among the companies that are to participate in the export program is Australia's Woodside Petroleum, which last year agreed in principle to buy 30% of the Leviathan field from licensees for some $2.5 billion. According to reports in the Australian press Sunday, the deal is still not confirmed, as both the licensees and Woodside are awaiting the High Court's final word on the matter.