Michael Melchior
Michael Melchior.
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"The rights to natural resources belong to the public - and no fat cat lawyer can change that," former minister and MK, Rabbi Michael Melchior, the founder and chairman of Israel's Civil Action Forum said yesterday. He spoke at a conference on the use of state revenues from oil and gas, sponsored by the New Israel Fund and the Association for Distributive Justice.

"Some advisors to the gas companies would have been standing here and speaking out on the behalf of the public if their checks had been coming from somewhere else," he said, adding, "We do not have the ability or desire to pay."

The Civil Action Forum is leading a public campaign to raise taxes and/or royalties the state would collect on the new offshore oil and natural fossil-fuel discoveries.

Melchior said he was amazed by the disinformation spread by the mercenaries on behalf of the companies, and that the claims about Egyptian gas royalties spread by officials of Yitzhak Tshuva's Delek Group were simply false.

In his view, the state is facing a historic opportunity to finance areas it had not been able to previously for budgetary reasons. "The excuses have run out," he said, adding it was time to implement reforms such as giving teachers fair and reasonable salaries and reducing class sizes.

Geologist Yossi Langotsky, who was involved in two of the largest offshore gas discoveries, said he was embarrassed by interested parties' attempts to influence decision makers. The discoveries were intended to serve the state and its citizens, he said.

He added that he found it unbelievable how far people whose priority is making money will go, while "trampling the rights of all Israeli citizens to enjoy the benefits of the state's natural resources."