Knesset Member Eitan Cabel (Zionist Camp), head of the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee, demanded that the government hold a ”real public

debate” on the framework deal for Israel`s natural gas market, after its terms were revealed last week.

”If the deal won`t pass me, it won`t pass at all,” he said during a committee meeting on Monday.

Morris Dorfman, deputy chairman of the National Economic Council attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, presented the framework deal and

said its goal was to bring about the speedy development of the natural gas fields and create competition in the short and long term through

a structural change in the gas reservoirs.

Dorfman said Israel’s Delek Group would sell its stake in the Tamar gas field within six years, but Houston-based Noble Energy ”cannot be

taken out of Tamar, since someone has to develop it.”

Turning to Dorfman, MK Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Camp) said ”with government clerks such as you, the gas companies do not need lobbyists.”

MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) defended Dorfman, saying it was inappropriate to refer to government officials as lobbyists. Dorfman said ”all the

things that appear to be concessions [in the deal] are not concessions; they are aimed at bringing about the rapid development of the gas

fields.”

MK Dov Khenin (United Arab List) said the gas was worth a trillion shekels, adding that there would be no competition ”since Nobel is

staying in Tamar and Leviathan.” He said the gas deal constituted an ”abandonment of the public in order to surrender to the tycoons.”

Antitrust Authority chief David Gilo said during the meeting that the deal would not lead to competition in the natural gas market, ”and

this is why I could not sign off on it.”

Gilo told the committee that the fact that Nobel controls 25% of Tamar and 40% of Leviathan is a ”significant obstacle to competition.”

According to him, more weight should have been given in the deal to ”competition and consumer welfare, because competition would have

resulted in lower [gas] prices, which would have led to lower electricity prices and lower prices of all products in Israel.”

”If there is no competition, then supervision is required,” Gilo added.

Nili Even-Hen, an attorney from the Movement for Quality Government, called the framework deal the ”rotten fruit of an illegal process to

bypass the antitrust court.”

MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said the framework deal was a failure and a ”capitulation to the energy companies.”

Geologist Yossi Langotsky asserted that ”Delek, Avner Oil Exploration and Noble Energy ”received Tamar on a golden platter.” He added: ”I am

not discounting Nobel or its capabilities, and I am not in favor of having the company leave Israel, but surrendering unconditionally is out

of the question.”

MK Micky Rosenthal (Zionist Camp) said ”someone isn`t telling us the truth. First they say that Nobel cannot be replaced, and then they tell

us that the Karish and Tanin reservoirs should be sold and that there are dozens of companies that can develop. In the place where capital

meets the government, the answers are false and we are in trouble.”

Binyamin Zomer, Noble Energy`s Director of Corporate Affairs in Israel said ”lies and falsifications” were being spread about the company,

adding ”it cannot be that the only company that was willing to operate in Israel will be an enemy of the public. The continuous intervention

of the Israeli government has kept every other foreign company away. There are elements that are joining forces with a certain newspaper.”

Zomer`s comments caused an uproar, and MK Zandberg demanded that he retract the accusation that Knesset members spread lies. MK Kisch said

the public should perhaps be given more time to express its opinion on the framework deal, ”but we must not find ourselves in a situation

whereby we are left with one pipe only and without the development of Leviathan.”

Avner CEO Gideon Tadmor said ”we are being accused of criminal activity, and these are lies. Everyone ran away from Tamar, and we entered

even when Langotsky left.” The framework deal, he said, ”includes significant elements of the dismantling of a monopoly. We are leaving

three [gas reservoirs], and we are staying only at Leviathan. We will do everything in order to develop it.”

MK Yinon Magal (HaBayit HaYehudi) said ”I want the State to be serious when it conducts business, and I am not interested in cheap populism,

including the protests and what is written in a certain newspaper. I hope the framework deal will pass, because at the end of the day there

is a leadership which needs to make decisions.”