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December 3, 2016 / 3 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Natural gas’

Justice Minister Shaked Issues Manifesto on Jewish Democracy, Based on the Teachings of Chief Justice Barak

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

“The Knesset is attempting to legislate away our lives and the High Court is invading territory to which it is not entitled,” declares Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), in a lengthy but exciting essay in the inaugural issue of Hashiloach, an Israeli Journal on thought and policy. The essay, titled “Tracks toward Governing” (the Hebrew title is a play on words between Mesilot-tracks and Meshilut-governance), suggests that the behavior of some of Israel’s branches of government is threatening individual freedoms as well as the ability of elected officials to govern. Shaked is urging a return, as soon as possible, to the proper governing on the proper tracks, from within Israel’s definition as a Jewish and democratic state.

“Good governance is not a blind force, certainly not a strong but silent engine,” writes Shaked, stressing that “the ability to carry out goals in the way they have been defined is a prerequisite condition for good governance, but is far from being sufficient in itself: good governance is measured above anything else by the ability of government ministers to establish their own goals.”

“A politician who knows how to bring the train to its destination, but is unable to set the destination, as senior as he may be — is not governing but merely subcontracting; he may have been appointed Minister, and he may get to cut ribbons in the end, but he is nothing more than a contractor,” Shaked argues. “To move down a track laid down by others does not require leaders; any driver could do it just fine. The essence of governance is always setting down directions and posting goals. This requires of elected officials to lay down new tracks only after they had decided for themselves where they would like to take the train.”

Shaked asserts that every time the Knesset votes in favor of any given law, it is also voting against the freedom of individuals to take care of their issues on their own. She calls it a vote of no confidence in the autonomy of communities and individuals. Indeed, as Chair of the Ministerial Legislative Committee, Shaked laments that she has processed more than 1,500 legislative proposals, from amendments to existing laws to fully realized, new bills. Suggesting the Knesset is by far the most prolific parliament in the entire Western world, Shaked describes this abundance of new laws as a hospital that’s being built underneath a broken bridge to care for the people who fall off.

Referring to economist Milton Friedman’s impressions following his visit to Israel in the 1960s, when he predicted that the historic spirit of Jewish freedom would eventually overcome the newly bred spirit of Socialist bureaucracy in Israel, Shaked admits she’s not so sure Friedman was right. “Without our firm push on the brake pedal of this locomotive, week in and week out, those legislative proposals would have created for us an alternative reality, in which government controls the citizens through the regulation of more and more economic sectors, with the individual being left with precious little freedom to manage his own affairs.”

Shaked provides several examples whereby proposed legislation would have, for instance, created a world in which a landlord would be forbidden to raise the rent for several years. Of course, rents would soar on the eve of this new law going into effect, followed by a loss of interest on the part of investors in creating new rental stock, leading to a drop in available apartments and, of course, another rise in rents. It would also be a world in which employers must comply with pensions set by the legislator, until, of course, they go bankrupt. And a world in which police would be bound by a two-strike law that compels them to arrest any individual against whom someone has filed two complaints. Running down some of these “bizarre” proposals, as she calls them, Shaked eventually describes a proposal to compel the state to solve terrorism by distributing bulletproof vests to every citizen against knife attacks, as well as a proposal to eliminate the reference in the law to “Beit Av,” which is the Biblical term for Household, because it has a reference to a father rather than to a mother.

Shaked reports that she requested, for the 2017-18 budget, that the ministerial committee would no longer consider bills that add new criminal offenses to the law books, without a thorough investigation of similar legislation in other countries, of the ramifications of the new criminal law on the books in Israel’s society, and, most important — of existing, non-criminal alternatives.

Alongside the need to restrain the legislator, Shaked sees a dire need to restrain Israel’s expansionist Judiciary. She notes an ongoing war between the Supreme Court and the executive branch, which necessitates the passing of a new constitutional-level legislation (Foundation Laws in Israel’s system) to regulate once and for all this combative relationship. She cites several cases in which government was blocked by the high court in areas that are clearly the executive’s domain, such as the law regulating the treatment of illegal infiltrators from Africa, and the government contract with natural gas companies to exploit Israel’s rich deposits.

Shaked laments the fact that the Supreme Court so often usurps the right to kill an entire legislation, as if it had appointed itself the 121st Knesset Member (or more than that, since it so frequently joins with the opposition parties to defeat a majority coalition). She has no problem with individuals seeking remedy in the lower courts to damages they claim to have suffered from, say, the new gas contract. That’s a legitimate use of the court system. But how can the unelected high court delete an entire legislation passed by elected officials? Who, after all is said and done, is the sovereign, the people or their appointed judges?

As a result, the art of politics in Israel is practiced as follows, according to Shaked: first the different parties vie for the voter’s trust; then, in the Knesset, the coalition negotiates with and fights against the opposition over a proposed bill; finally, after the bill was passed, the opposition parties appeal it before the Supreme Court, which reverses it. That, in a nutshell, was the story of the natural gas bill earlier this year.

JNi.Media

Jordanians Protest Natural Gas Deal with Israel

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

Jordanian protesters marched in Amman this past Friday (Sept. 30), carrying banners and shouting slogans against the Jordanian government and Israel.

The demonstration was held to protest against the new Jordan-Israel gas deal in which the Leviathan natural gas consortium signed a $10 billion, 15-year gas deal with Amman.

A senior official at the Jordan National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) told the Jordan Times that the deal will save them $600 million annually.

The consortium, comprised of the Texas-based Noble Energy firm and Israel’s Delek group, signed the contract on September 26 to supply the Jordan Electric Power Company with approximately 45 billion cubic meterse of natural gas, beginning in 2019.

Hana Levi Julian

Israel’s Leviathan Consortium and Jordan Sign $10b, 15-Year Gas Deal

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Members of the Leviathan consortium, which includes Israel’s Delek group and the U.S.-based Noble Energy firm, signed a $10 billion contract on Monday to supply the Jordan Electric Power Company with natural gas for 15 years, beginning in 2019.

With the new agreement Israel will have become Jordan’s largest supplier of natural gas, providing the Hashemite Kingdom with approximately 45 billion cubic meters of the energy resource.

Israel’s Likud Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz called the deal “an extremely important national achievement,” according to Channel 10 television news. “This is an important milestone in strengthening the ties and strategic partnerships between Israel and Jordan and the entire region,” he emphasized.

Yossi Abu, CEO of Delek Drilling, was quoted by the Hebrew-language NRG news site as saying the deal “establishes the Leviathan oil field as a serious player on the energy map… It will contribute to the prosperity of [both] Israel and Jordan.”

Hana Levi Julian

Israel to Ship Gas to Gaza, Can’t Be Used to Fuel Rockets

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Israel and the PA have reached an agreement on laying down a gas pipeline from Israel to the Gaza Strip, to alleviate the power shortage in Gaza, Walla reported Thursday. The Israeli government informed the PA that it has approved the arrangement, and invited the PA to join with an Israeli delegation that would appeal to the donor nations conference in New York at the end of this month, requesting funding for the gas pipeline project.

Currently, Israel ships Diesel to the power station in the Gaza Strip. But diesel is problematic in terms of security considerations, says the Israeli security community, since it can be used by terror organizations in their manufacturing of missiles. Natural gas is not nearly as useful to rocket makers.

The deal between Israel and the PA comes in the wake of a major deal that was reached between Israel and the PA on managing the latter’s $530 million debt to the Israel Electric Company.

Prime Minster Netanyahu, on his recent visit to the Netherlands, mentioned the gas pipeline to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who viewed it favorably as part of his government’s efforts to promote essential services in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip as a way of supporting the peace process.

Qatar is on the record with an offer to help finance a Israeli gas pipeline to Gaza. The idea was being promoted a year ago by some in the European Union and former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

JNi.Media

Netanya Mayor Remanded for 6 Days on Suspicion of Corruption, Bribes

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg Ikar was in Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court Wednesday, along with three other suspects, including a senior official in her administration and a real estate developer, to hear police request for a remand in her investigation on suspicion of corruption.

A representative of the Police told the court that “this is a convoluted and complex investigation involving serious suspicions of public corruption on the highest order,” which is why police were requesting a 10-day remand. In the end the court allowed a 6-day remand for the mayor, her former husband Eli Feierberg, Rabbi Shimon Sher, chairman of the local planning and construction committee, and a developer whose name was not disclosed.

Mayor Feirberg and the other three are suspected of various crimes of accepting bribes. “These are public figures who violated the public’s trust,” the police representative told the court.

During the hearing, Feirberg interfered in her attorney’s comments to the court and the judge stopped her and said, “I understand this situation is uncomfortable for you, but do let your attorney speak, he knows what he’s talking about.” Feirberg shot back, “Why? I only asked to answer all their questions.”

Police suspect high ranking officials in the Netanya municipality and their circles of associates of working to promote the interests of contractors and developers in Netanya real estate projects, in return for bribes and other gifts. These officials are suspected of operating habitually with conflicts of interest without reporting them, with everyone being involved in bribery, fraud, money laundering and tax evasions.

Since the investigation has been revealed, police have seized and frozen accounts and assets to support possible future requests for forfeiture. The investigation is being run in collaboration by the National police Unit and the Income Tax Investigations Unit.

Other suspects, in addition to Mayor Feirberg, are her son, attorney Tzafrir Feirberg, contractor and developer Avraham T’shuva, the brother of natural gas and real estate tycoon Itzhak T’shuva, Attorney Rabbi Avraham Gogig, and architect Gabi Tetro.

David Israel

As US Anthropologists Reject BDS Resolution, Israeli Economy Thriving Despite Boycotts

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

On Tuesday, the 10,000-member American Anthropological Association announced the results of a vote on its proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions: the call to boycott failed. After many who are close to the organization had predicted the measure would pass, it lost by 2,423 to 2,384 votes.

The failure of the boycott proposal came as unexpected relief to people like Ted Gup, a professor of journalism at Emerson College, who wrote on the eve of the vote in The Chronicle of Higher Education that it is “misguided, counterproductive, and sure to damage both the association and the Palestinian cause.” He added that “it also puts at risk any network of scholars by inviting similar future reprisals.” Also, he warned that “the boycott will harm the very people it is intended to help and embolden those whose hardline policies the AAA disdains.” But “beyond all this,” Gup, who is Jewish, noted that “the boycott itself is irreparably flawed and discredited by the historical and contemporary context that produced it.”

It also appears that the boycotts have had no influence at all on Israel’s economy, which today is the fastest growing in OEDC, according to a Bloomberg News report citing a steep increase in foreign investments in Israeli assets, which last year hit a record high of $285.12 billion, “a near-tripling from 2005 when the so-called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was started by a group of Palestinians.”

“We don’t have a problem with foreign investment in Israel — on the contrary,” Yoel Naveh, chief economist at Israel’s finance ministry, told Bloomberg.

According to people from the entire spectrum of the market: money managers, economists and government officials, “Israeli assets are an attractive alternative to weak performers elsewhere.” And even though Israel’s economy has slowed down in 2016, it is still growing faster than the economies of the US and Europe and its interest rate is higher.

Interestingly, Bloomberg also reported that the business community rejects the fabricated accusations against Israel perpetrated by the BDS activists, “that investing in Israeli innovation and natural gas violates Palestinian rights, and that Israel’s misdeeds are so exceptional that they justify singling it out for censure.”

Bloomberg quotes data collected by IVC Research Center which suggests that even with an appreciating shekel, Israeli startups have raised $3.76 billion in 2015 from foreign investors, their highest annual figure in ten years. In 2015 Israeli industrial high-tech exports rose 13% from 2014 to $23.7 billion, and in 2016 Israel’s economy is expected to grow 2.8%, compared with the US (1.8%) and the EU (1.8%).

Or, as the Torah put it, back in 1248 BCE: “But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became.” (Exodus 1:12)

Back to the failed BDS vote at the AAA, there’s a point Ted Gup was making in his thoughtful article which suggests the more Israel makes itself known to the world, the less would anti-Semitic NGOs be able to feed off its flesh. “In the summer of 2015, with the support of a Fulbright, I taught at the University of Haifa, in Israel’s third-largest city and one of its most secular and progressive urban centers,” Gup related. “The university boasts a student population that is one-third Arab. It is common to see student-soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces, rifles slung over their shoulders, checking alongside their Arab classmates the same class announcement boards or discussing homework. Nor is it unusual for heated debates about Israeli policy to arise between Jews and Arabs in the classroom — and even more commonly, between Jews and Jews.”

Then he made a most cogent point, coming as it does from a leftwing perspective: “So how does a learned society like the AAA justify punishing the likes of the University of Haifa or see doing so as an effective message to the Israeli government? Many of my colleagues on the Haifa faculty openly criticize that government, as do their students. A wholesale boycott of academic institutions applies the same indiscriminate standard of punishment that the association says it abhors. The AAA would argue that you don’t bulldoze a house or bomb a block in Gaza because of one attacker. How then do you justify cutting off relations with all Israeli academic institutions based not on actions but on geography?”

JNi.Media

High Court Suspends Natural Gas Deal, Harming Israel’s Relations with Energy Firms

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

Israel’s Supreme Court on Sunday accepted some of the petitions against the Netanyahu government’s natural gas outline which included development and exploitation of the country’s newly discovered off-shore deposits by Texas-based Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Group.

In a four to one vote, the justices specifically ruled against the “stability clause,” which blocks any government regulatory changes to the off-shore gas outline for the next ten years – something that Netanyahu had promised the energy companies, in order to guarantee them stability in return for their massive investments.

This clause is considered legally problematic as it obligates future governments and Knessets, without actually having been passed via legislation.

The court ruling means the entire signed deal is suspended until the Knesset has a chance to review and amend the law. The court gave the Netanyahu government one year to fix the clause, or the deal would die.

Out of all the petitions that had been submitted to the high court after the law had been approved, the court embraced most decidedly the appeal from three good government groups — Movement for Quality Government, Association for Environmental Defense, and Israel Energy Forum — who also argued against the validity of the clause 52 maneuver, which was used by Netanyahu in an elaborate process that involved firing the state regulator, handing a government minister the Interior portfolio from which he had been removed in disgrace over embezzlement, and the Prime Minister’s claiming for himself the Economy portfolio.

Clause 52 permits the economy minister to bypass the objections of the state regulator and create a de facto monopoly, for security reasons.

Many observers had been placing small bets on whether or not the Prime Minister’s complicated political circus act would land him in front of a Supreme court veto. Surprisingly, it didn’t. In the end, the court did not challenge Netanyahu’s masterful maneuvers, but by striking down the stability clause, it may still kill the deal.

The good government groups argued the PM lacked the authority to approve the gas outline; pointed to supposed deficiencies in the approval process; claimed the absence of a relevant factual basis to establish the outline; decried an assault on the rule of law; cited violation of the principle of distributive justice; claimed injury to the intergenerational justice; accused the PM of violating the public trust; said the law had a lack of proportionality; and declared it was an extremely unreasonable legislation. The only thing missing was the kitchen sink.

But the court only accepted their argument regarding the stability clause.

Still, the three judges who voted to suspend the law were adamant in their condemnation of the Netanyahu government’s lack of respect for the democratic process. Justice Esther Hayut, who is slated to become the next Chief Justice, wrote regarding the stability clause that it is the most excessive overreach by the Prime Minister, in that it ties up government’s hand for a decade against changes in regulating and taxing the natural gas exploitation.

Israel’s energy minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said that the Supreme Court made an “unfortunate decision” in blocking the government’s plan to develop the offshore natural gas fields, warning it could cause irreversible damage to Israel’s energy sector. “The decision’s negative consequences on the development of the gas market, on energy security, on the Israeli economy and on the lost revenue for the state of Israel and its citizens, could be very tough, and even irreversible,” Steinitz said in a statement.

At this point it is unclear whether Netanyahu would be able to fix the stability clause in the current political reality of the Knesset.

Two ministers, Galant (Kulanu) and Katz (Likud) have had to recuse themselves from the debate for reasons of a conflict of interests, as would, possibly, Finance Minister Kahlon. This leaves a tie of 59 to 59. A lot will depend on MK Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu opposition faction, who may not be so eager to lend a helping hand to Netanyahu. And even if the PM manages to pass an amended bill, it is to be expected that the left in the House would take it right back to the Supreme Court.

PM Netanyahu said he would find a way to overcome the damage the court’s ruling just did to Israel’s economy. But for the time being, the gas will continue to remain stuck under the sea.

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/high-court-suspends-natural-gas-deal-harming-israels-relations-with-energy-firms/2016/03/27/

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