Top Stories This Week (December 29th – January 4th)

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News Summary

Leviathan Gas Field starts pumping gas:
The Leviathan natural gas field began pumping natural gas Wednesday. The natural gas field is located offshore, 125km (77mi) northwest of Haifa. The production had been delayed numerous times due to various regulation issues, including concerns over competition and multiple delays due to environmental concerns.

Leviathan is the largest oil field in Israel and is expected to turn Israel into a regional energy powerhouse, almost overnight. The first flow of natural gas reached Israel’s shores Wednesday afternoon and immediately began flowing to consumers in Israel and Egypt.

Poll predicts deadlock in Knesset will not change with new elections:
Channel 12 published a poll Sunday night which predicts no significant change in the makeup of the Knesset in the coming elections. With the merger of two right-wing parties, Otzma Yehudi and The Jewish Home party, the right-wing bloc would gain a seat and win a total of 56 seats. The left-wing bloc would win 43 seats, with the Arab Joint List also winning 13 and Yisrael Beiteinu winning 8. Support of 61 Knesset members is required to form a government, so the result in new elections would still be a deadlocked Knesset.

Israel to advance settlement plan:
The Defense Ministry is set to approve 2,000 new homes in Judea and Samaria this week. The number is about the same as the average 2,084 new homes approved each quarter during 2019. Most of the new homes will be constructed on settlements deep in the West Bank. Only 786 of them will be constructed beginning immediately, while the rest will wait for additional construction plans and approval.

Netanyahu to seek immunity:
Netanyahu is set to submit a request for immunity this week. He is facing charges for bribery and breach of public trust.

The Knesset House Committee will decide whether to grant Netanyahu’s immunity request or not. However, the committee will likely only be able to deal with the request after a new coalition is formed, which means that if Netanyahu is tasked with trying to form a coalition after the next election. He will do so with an indictment and an immunity request pending, which will be politically contentious.

The immunity request is considered unpopular in Israel, with a slim majority of voters opposed to the idea.