Green groups ready to fight natural gas exports

With the government’s debate over natural gas policy approaching, a group of environmental and social justice groups said yesterday they would work together to oppose exports. “We won’t allow the gas companies to export Israel’s most vital strategic resource,” the Headquarters Fighting Gas Exports group said in a statement. “Israeli gas must serve Israelis and the Israeli economy. Israel isn’t Nigeria or the Congo.” The opponents of exports are demanding that the issue be debated in the Knesset and not given to the government to decide alone. Two weeks ago more than 60 lawmakers signed a petition to hold a parliamentary debate on the issue. The government’s Tzemach committee recommended last year allowing exports so long as there was enough reserves to ensure supplies to the domestic market for the next 25 years, or some 450 billion cubic meters. ‏(Itai Trilnick‏)

Homebuyers’ financial condition declined 2.7% in March

Bank Hapoalim’s Mishkan Index, which tracks the financial condition of homebuyers in Israel, fell 2.7% for March following a 1.7% rise in home prices, the bank reported yesterday. According to the survey, over the past 12 months home prices in Israel have risen by a nominal 10.5%, or 8.2% after inflation. There was also a slight increase in interest rates on mortgages, it said. The Mishkan Index combines data on changes in home prices, mortgage rates, average wages and unemployment rates to estimate the affordability of housing. Hapoalim said new-home sales maintained a high and steady rate but that the supply of unsold new homes has declined. Relatively low interest rates and expectations that taxes will be going up in the months ahead have contributed to continued demand, it said. ‏(Arik Mirovsky‏)

Ex-chief of staff Halutz named chairman of job-search firm

Former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz is joining Jobookit Holdings as chairman, the developer of online job recruiting technologies using social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn said yesterday. Halutz, who stepped down after the Second Lebanon War, had been serving as chairman of antenna maker Starling Advanced Communications until the business was sold about a year ago. Jobookit was founded in 2008 by Arik Filstein and includes among its investors Rafael Skolnick, Shlomo Shmeltzer and Eli Levy, CEO of HP Software in Israel. The appointment of Halutz is part of an internal reshuffle: Filstein will serve as CEO of closely held Jobookit while Skolnick, the previous chairman, was named CEO of its parent company. ‏(Eran Azran‏)