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Prime Minister Netayahu says Israel wants to increase gas exports to Italy and Europe

origin 1Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a joint press conference at the government offices of Palazzo Chigi in Rome March 10, 2023. ©Andrew Medichini/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

Italy and Israel have agreed to strengthen cooperation on water, energy supplies and cybersecurity, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu said after a summit in Rome on Friday.

Netanyahu’s visit, the first to the Italian capital since Meloni took office, coincides with Rome’s search for alternatives to Russian gas. Like other European countries, Italy has worked hard to reduce its dependence on supplies from Moscow since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Israel wants to increase its gas exports to Italy and Europe, opening up the possibility of creating a liquefied natural gas terminal in Cyprus.

“We have gas reserves that we are now exporting and would like to accelerate gas exports to Europe through Italy,” Netanyahu said.

Israel began producing and exporting gas after discovering several fields off its coast in the early 2010s.

But it lacks a pipeline to connect its drilling platforms in the Mediterranean to southern Europe.

“We are already collaborating in gas with your national company (energy giant ENI) but we want to expand,” Netanyahu told Italy’s business minister, Adolfo Urso, at a business forum.

“I think this (gas) is a strategic need of Italy and Europe, and Israel is willing to do more with you to that end,” Netanyahu said.

Urso welcomed his comments, saying, “Italy aims to become the European gas hub and Israel must be the strong point for gas production.”

Other options for bringing Israeli gas to Europe include the EastMed project, the construction of an almost 1,900-kilometre-long undersea pipeline to connect Israel’s offshore gas fields with southern Europe via Cyprus and Greece.

Shooting in Tel Aviv after an Israeli military raid killed three Palestinians in the occupied West Bank

The gas would then be transported via the Poseidon pipeline to Otranto in southern Italy.

But the 6 billion euro project is only expected to be operational between 2025 and 2027.

Meanwhile, in central Rome, demonstrators gathered to protest Netanyahu’s law which, protesters say, could weaken Israel’s Supreme Court.

The reform, strongly contested by opposition parties, means that the Israeli parliament can overturn a court decision by an absolute majority of votes (61 out of 120 members), effectively establishing political control over the judiciary.

“We are here to sympathize with the Israeli people and because Israel cannot lose a democratic stronghold like its Supreme Court. We demonstrate for Israeli democracy,” protester Daniela Gea said.

The turmoil over Netanyahu’s legal review has plunged Israel into one of its worst internal crises ever.

Beyond the protests, which drew tens of thousands of Israelis to the streets and have recently turned violent, opposition has grown from across society, with business leaders and legal officials speaking out against those they say , will be the ruinous effects of the plan.