Israel’s Supreme Court rejected Sunday afternoon, March 27, Israel’s natural gas legislation which had been sponsored, lobbied for, and signed by neo-liberal Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The judges rejected the “stability clause,” a sine quo non for the entire plan – thus torpedoing it altogether. The stability clause prohibited the government and Knesset from changing the agreement for a period of ten years as a means of protecting the corporations involved from regulatory changes in taxation, antitrust limitations and export quotas. With the exception of Justice Noam Solberg, four of the five justices ruled that the “stability clause” was illegal.
The court’s decision is a blow to Netanyahu’s political stature, as the prime minister invested much time and effort to get the legislation approved. Among other things, when attending the Supreme Court’s hearing on the subject, Netanyahu arrogantly remarked: “You know me –when I want something, I get it.” Netanyahu responded to Sunday’s court ruling by saying that “the court’s decision seriously threatens the development of gas reserves for the State of Israel. Israel is seen as a state in which excessive judicial intervention makes it difficult to do business.”
Social activists waging a mass popular campaign against the deal had been furious with its lack of transparency, in particular the so-called “stability clause,” which meant, once again, that the government intentionally waved for ten years its ability to impose regulatory changes on the gas companies, such as breaking up suspected monopolies. Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) said Netanyahu’s fear-mongering had reached its peak and called his use of the word “security” during the proceedings “wild and irresponsible.” Khenin remarked that the notorious, now defunct gas deal will go down in history as one that “was served on a silver platter to Israeli tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva and US Noble Energy Company. We welcome this historic ruling by the Supreme Court for this brave and necessary decision, a result of the popular struggle which lasted more than 3 years,” he said.