Israelis protest controversial gas deal, march on Tel Aviv govt complex (PHOTOS)

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Four people have been detained after minor scuffles with police in Tel Aviv during mass protests demanding transparency over a natural gas deal between the government and a US-Israeli energy conglomerate.

Thousands of Israelis flooded the streets to oppose a deal approved by the cabinet on Thursday which would see US Noble Energy and Israeli conglomerate Delek Group develop Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan offshore gas reserves which were discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean in 2009 and 2010.

The government is expected to submit the deal to parliament for approval next week, but the demonstrators demand more transparency. Organizers argue that, once approved, the deal could establish a monopoly over natural gas without any sufficient oversight and would result in increased prices for Israeli consumers.

Blocking roads and chanting slogans, the protesters demanded more transparency into the shady gas deal, as they rallied at the city’s Habima Square before marching to the government complex.

“I won't be surprised if it would become known later down the road that those who made these unacceptable and outrageous decisions were bribed,” Yossi Langotsky, the geologist responsible for the discovery of the Tamar gas field said at the rally.

Ahead of the rally, Israeli media reported that prices for natural gas would rise at the demand of the Tshuva’s conglomerate, higher than those proposed by the finance ministry. It was also reported that the government agreed not to regulate gas prices.

Minister of Environmental Protection Avi Gabai (Kulanu) even sent a letter late on Saturday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticizing the government’s handling of the issue, demanding more details on the deal.

Ahead of the rally, Netanyahu responded to growing discontent. “We are promoting a realistic solution that will bring natural gas to the Israeli market and not a populist solution that will leave the gas in the depths of the earth,” Netanyahu said.

“This dismantles the monopoly and will bring in the coming decades hundreds of millions of shekels for education, welfare, health and for every Israeli citizen,” he said.