By David Rosenblatt, Yosef I. Abramowitz

The past month has seen oil prices surpass $100 a barrel, the supply of Egyptian natural gas continue to be unreliable and the Israel Electric Company warning about possible blackouts. It was Israel’s moment to take decisive action toward dramatically reducing its reliance on foreign energy supplies. And the actions were decisive: The government froze Israel’s program to license and build any large, utility-scale solar fields. Furthermore, the government chose not to increase the number of medium-sized solar projects beyond the current 300-megawatt quota, even though the program has applications for the equivalent of 1300 megawatts.

It seems that some policy leaders may have begun celebrating Purim a little early. Somehow they seem not to fully appreciate the reality of energy instability, insufficient domestic electric production and the great economic opportunity presented by solar. The chief arguments against using Israel’s greatest natural resource – the sun – are that the country has large natural gas finds and that solar is “expensive.” But these arguments miss the point (or many points ). Energy policy is not necessarily about binary choices. It is about strategy.

In short, a sound and secure energy strategy would include a mix of domestic power sources. It should balance reliability and security of supply with environmental considerations and an appreciation of energy’s full economic impact, which includes the potential of billions of dollars in foreign investment and the creation of thousands of green jobs. In this strategic context, solar power becomes a key tool – but not the only one – to achieving a long-term solution to Israel’s growing energy needs.

During Purim, people often imbibe and this can affect clear thinking. But a moment of sobriety is needed. In considering the energy mix for Israel, it is good to count on the natural gas reserves. But we must acknowledge that this asset will take years to develop, requires substantial infrastructure investments and ultimately will be priced based on a volatile mix of energy indices, including the cost of a barrel of oil. Only a hallucinogenic state should induce us to see natural gas as the panacea to all the country’s energy issues.

The reading of Israel’s “megillah” on solar is instructive. It includes Theodor Herzl’s vision, presented in his 1902 book “Altneuland,” of a Jewish state powered by renewable energy. Further along readers will find that the country’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, foresaw that solar power in the Negev would be Israel’s saving grace. More recently, the government voted, in 2009, to set a 5 percent renewables goal by 2014 and 10 percent by 2020.

But no story is complete without drama, and solar in Israel is now at a dramatic crossroads. Without the government allowing large solar fields, removing the limits on medium-sized solar projects and putting forward other sensible solar policies – there is no chance that Israel will reach that modest 10-percent goal by 2020. And be certain that Israel’s goal is modest: At least 27 European countries have higher targets, including comparatively sun-starved countries like Poland, Latvia and Estonia.

While the detractors say solar is expensive because of the feed-in-tariff it enjoys, they ignore its economic benefits. Yes, solar development has short-term costs. But as with most worthwhile investments, the long-term benefits are great. Solar is already delivering economic payback to Israel in the form of thousands of jobs and hundreds of companies engaging in the business, not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars of direct foreign investment. And the emerging solar industry enjoys the byproducts of the many technological innovations being developed at Israeli start-ups.

But perhaps more important, solar economics has its advantages. With solar, the price for energy is known at the commissioning of a project and remains stable for 20 years. Non-renewables are not even stable for 20 days, and in the case of the Egypt pipeline, perhaps not even when a long-term contract is in place. Moreover, solar economics improve with scale – prices are reduced as more solar fields are built. How many people would bet on the price of other energy sources going down in the future?

And like Esther, Israel can take the initiative now to help herself and her people to further bolster the economics of solar. Israel can do this by ending policies that force the industry to take money from the citizens to give to the government – money that is still being held captive.

A simple example is the Israel Lands Authority’s decision to make a solar project pay the maximum possible levy on property while it decides how much tax should actually be assessed. For the first solar field in Israel – at Kibbutz Ketura – NIS 3 million were required to be overpaid and continue to be held by the ILA almost a year later. Complicating matters is that the ILA plans to tax fields at a far higher rate than was factored by the regulator in setting the feed-in-tariff for solar power – all of which conspires to have the government drive up the costs of solar power in Israel. This is only one example of the costly “take-give cycle” that can and should be avoided.

The story does not have to end tragically. Indeed, as a free people, Israel should write its own “Energy Megillah.” It begins with the removal of quotas on solar. In fact, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau has even called for the removal of the current limitations on solar energy production. Environment Minister Gilad Erdan is considering asking the government to match the European Union goal of 20 percent renewables by 2020, doubling previous solar goals. And even the Defense Ministry understands that a distributed power network of solar fields is a strategic alternative to the vulnerability of a single location, large-scale power plant in an age of missiles.

Israel can have its hamantaschen and eat them too. The sun is shining, the economics are sound, and the ingenuity of the industry is already at work. Israel now has to commit to a strategic decision to lift the limitations on solar and allow this green energy to play its historic role in the story of Israel’s future.

David Rosenblatt and Yosef Abramowitz are co-founders of the Arava Power Company, with Kibbutz Ketura, and serve respectively as vice chair and president of its international board. This is the second in a series on green energy.