The worst forecasts of the expected jump in gasoline prices materialized Thursday, as the Economics Ministry announced that the new price of gas beginning Sunday would be NIS 6.46 per liter – 38 agurot (11¢) more than it costs today.

At current exchange rates, that comes out to about $6.21 a gallon.

Israeli gas prices are adjusted twelve times a year, at the beginning of the secular calendar month, with the maximum allowed price adjusted upwards or downwards depending on how much oil costs on the market. The price of oil has been slipping in recent months, dipping below $50 a barrel, but last week it jumped to over $60.

Since then, oil prices have fallen again, which could mean a drop in the projected gas price. On the other hand, a major strike at oil refineries in the US now in its fourth week, could squeeze supplies, leaving prices higher as supply dries up and US demand remains strong. 

The news of the increase comes at a very inopportune time for the government - on the heels of the Statae Comptroller's report on the high cost of housing, which has refocused the election campaign back onto economic issues – just two and a half weeks before the March 17 elections.

With money and high prices on their mind, an increase in the price of gas so close to the election could turn out to be a “dark horse," with some voters – fresh from shelling out an extra 6.25% on their monthly gas budget, as compared to February – thinking twice about whom to vote for, analysts said.

It should be noted that 65% of the cost of gasoline in Israel is due to taxes, both direct and indirect.