Netanyahu signing natural gas plan
Netanyahu signing natural gas plan Kobi Gideon/GPO

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday evening spoke out against the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down his landmark natural gas policy, when it ruled that if the Knesset does not fix certain issues in the outline in one year’s time, it would be formally dismissed.

“The Supreme Court’s decision seriously threatens the development of the gas reserves of the State of Israel. Israel is seen as a country with excessive judicial intervention with which it is difficult to do business,” warned Netanyahu.

He stressed that “Certainly there is nothing to celebrate about the fact that the gas may remain in the depths of the sea and hundreds of billions of shekels will not reach Israeli citizens as a result. We will look for other ways to overcome the severe damage caused to the Israeli economy following this surprising ruling.”

In its ruling, the Court justices said that a clause in the plan – named the stability clause – which prevented the plan from being changed for a decade without a clear final vote in the Knesset, was unacceptable.

"The government is not entitled to limit the discretion and judgment of the Knesset," Judge Salim Joubran stated in the ruling. "The current formulation of the provisions of stability is distasteful and it may harm Israel's international status as the state would have to go back on a promise which it gave.”

Netanyahu was not the only member of the coalition to speak out against the ruling. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) said that “the cancellation of the stability clause is a blatant and unnecessary interference in a government decision which severely harms Israel's economy. It is inconceivable that a government has the responsibility for the economy and prosperity of the country, but it remains without the requisite authority to act. It is impossible to work this way.”

Shaked called for the clause in question to be regulated by law as a solution.

Minister of Immigrant Absorption and Jerusalem Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) criticized the Supreme Court’s decision and said that the Court “blatantly intervened in the running of the country without bearing responsibility,” as he put it.

“As a result of this intervention the Israeli economy was hurt and many billions in the state budget that could be spent on welfare, health and other social needs will be missing later on,” added Elkin.

“We must remember that those who will be responsible for this are the judges in the ivory tower of the Supreme Court,” he continued. “It has been proven again, as I and some of my colleagues have been saying for years, that a fundamental reform of the judicial system to restore sanity to democracy is absolutely necessary.”

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz called the Court decision "unfortunate" and warned that the effects of the decision on the development of the gas sector, on energy security, the Israeli economy, and on the loss of revenue to the State of Israel and its citizens, may be most difficult – and possibly irreversible.

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) also responded to the ruling and said that “the Supreme Court today brutally broke another red line that requires the government and the Knesset to act.”

“The argument by which the Supreme Court disqualified the gas plan and which said that the government is not authorized to use its own discretion is a fallacy that seems more of an excuse for a power struggle between elected officials and unelected judges,” he added.