JERUSALEM, June 23 Israel's government on Sunday
approved limiting natural gas exports to about 40 percent of the
country's newly-discovered offshore reserves.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ended months of
uncertainty on Wednesday when he said that Israel would keep 60
percent of the gas, or roughly 540 billion cubic metres, for
domestic use and allow the rest to be sold abroad.
Netanyahu disappointed environmental groups and opposition
lawmakers who have called for even stricter limitations, saying
his government had found the right balance that ensures Israel's
energy security for a few decades while still satisfying
exploration companies seeking access to the global market.
"We did the right thing for Israel. Without gas exports,
there will not be gas for the domestic market," Netanyahu said
in broadcasted remarks at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting.
"This mistake, this surrender to populism - 'let's save the
gas for ourselves'. A number of countries did this, and they
saved the gas for themselves. It's still buried, under the
ground and water, beneath layers of populism and bureaucracy,"
Exploration companies had lobbied strongly for a large
export quota, saying the Israeli market alone was too small to
warrant further investment in developing the fields.
Two of the world's largest offshore fields found in the past
decade lie in Israeli waters. Tamar, with an estimated 280 bcm,
was discovered in 2009, and a year later Leviathan, was found
with an estimated 530 bcm.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Greg Mahlich)