Several protesters gathered outside the home of Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom on Wednesday night to protest the Leviathan natural gas field export deal due to be signed on Thursday.
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The deal, which is expected to be signed in Jerusalem, will transfer 25% of the rights to the Leviathan gas field to the Australian energy giant Woodside. The other partners are Delek Drilling, Avner Oil and Gas, Noble Energy and Ratio Oil Exploration. Woodside will pay about $2.7 billion for its share of the gas field. Woodside specializes in gas liquefaction, and will eventually export the Israeli gas to destinations around the world. First, the Finance Ministry, led by director general Yael Andorn will determine the rate of taxation on gas exports.
The demonstration began at 7:30 P.M., at the corner of Jabotinski and Abba Hillel streets in Ramat Gan, and proceeded to Shalom’s home. Protesters held signs that read “Silvan what are you hiding?” “Wealth-power mafia steals our gas again” and “David, start to regulate the gas monopoly, before Teshuva sticks us with another pipe.”
“This week, the most significant social-economic-environmental event in years is liable to happen, but chances are you won’t hear about it. They’re working hard to keep it under wraps,” wrote the activists on their Facebook page. “Remember when corrupt politicians sold the Dead Sea for peanuts? Remember when politicians sold all of our natural resources for peanuts? It will not happen again.”
The tax rate on exports is extremely important, as it will determine the investors' rate of return and how much the government will earn. While the partner companies are demanding that the tax rate allow them a rate of return between 17 and 19%, its seems that the Finance Ministry will set a relatively high tax rate, which will net the companies a rate of return between 6 and 10%. It’s also expected that the Energy and Water Resources Ministry will grant the companies a 30-year guarantee on their deal, but the terms of the guarantee have not yet been released.
“Tomorrow, one of the most outrageous deals in Israeli history is set to be signed — a deal that will sell some of the Leviathan gas field to the Australian company, Woodside. The deal will happen because Israeli representatives yielded. The Australians made demands, and we gave in. And after we give in, we’ll see that we lost lots of money in taxes. When it starts to hurt, we’ll find out that they sold the gas for nothing. Because the Australians demanded it,” wrote the protestors.
“The person mostly responsible is Minister Shalom. If he knew how to defend all of our interests, he wouldn’t let this happen. The problem is that he doesn’t tell us anything. Claiming commercial secrecy, Energy Minister Silvan Shalom is unwilling to publish the details of the deal about a resource that belongs to the public, to all of us. We’ve already seen this happen in the past. Every time they hide information, we get screwed. If everything is pure and clear, what’s there to hide? When they hide things, we get screwed. Not this time. We will demand that Minister Shalom stop keeping quiet and reveal all of the details of this shady deal. We will not let them sell our natural resource and leave us with crumbs."
The Yisrael Yekara Lanu, or, “Israel is Dear to Us” movement, which also participated in the protests, wrote, “And how is this related to your lives? As long as the Teshuva is a gas monopoly, energy prices will remain high, and the cost of living will just keep going up. As long as export taxes are low, all the royalties they promised us will turn out to be a joke. As long as gas hasn’t been promised to us in case of an emergency — then … you don’t want to really know what will happen.”