Canadian Daily Joins Mudsling on Israel Chemicals Sale to Fertilizer Giant

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Last week Finance Minister Yair Lapid announced his opposition to efforts by Canadian fertilizer giant PotashCorp to acquire the Israel Corporation’s controlling stake in Israel Chemicals. Then at the end of the week, one of Canada’s most important dailies remarked that there was “poetic justice” in the Canadian company’s predicament.

“There is a certain poetic justice in the difficulties that Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan is having,” The Globe and Mail said in a lead editorial Thursday, although the daily made clear that it believed Israel’s government should not “stand in its way [of the deal], yielding to economic nationalism.”

On Wednesday Lapid announced that he would act to block any such deal for Israel Chemicals, which is itself a major fertilizer producer, and would convene a panel to reexamine Israel’s management of its natural resources in a way that the country as a whole benefited.

The Globe and Mail quoted Lapid as saying that a takeover by PotashCorp would be “an un-Zionist act.” It noted, however, that in 2010, when PotashCorp was the target of a takeover bid by BHP Billiton Ltd. ‏(an Australian-British mining company‏), “the management of PotashCorp was quite willing to let Canadian economic nationalism work against [the] proposed takeover,” and “in the end, the [Canadian] federal government took the position that BHP’s purchase would not be of net benefit to Canada.

“If Mr. Lapid had taken a stand for a more competitive international market in fertilizer, he would have had a better point,” the editorial stated. The paper also noted the fervent diplomatic support that Canada provides Israel, and called Lapid’s position that a takeover of Israel Chemicals would be “un-Zionist” contrary to the Canadian government’s “emphatic support for Israel.”

“Israel is a member in good standing of the Western world,” the editorial concluded, “and Israelis should be proud of the comparative openness of their economy and desist from economic nationalism − to which, of course, Canadians are not immune.”

Israel Chemicals' Dead Sea Works plant. The tie-up with Albemarle is part of efforts to reduce the company’s exposure to the Sheshinski committee examining royalties from mining natural resources.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

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