Gas-industry Lobbyists Step Up Pressure Against Sheshinski Ahead of Finance C'tee Vote Today

But the bill raising taxes on oil and gas profits is expected to pass parliament nonetheless.

The Knesset Finance Committee will vote today on the Sheshinski committee recommendations on raising taxes on profits from oil and natural gas production. A large majority of committee MKs supports the bill, which would changing Israel's fiscal and tax policies on the state's natural resources. Except for Yisrael Beiteinu's two representatives on the committee, all other committee members have said they will vote in favor.

Even a number of Likud MKs who threatened to vote against, are now toeing the party line. After the bill passes the committee, it will be brought to the Knesset plenum next week for its second and third readings, and is expected to pass easily.

Eytan Sheshinski
Tomer Appelbaum

The Sheshinski committee, headed by economist Prof. Eytan Sheshinski, recommended raising the state's share in oil and gas profits to between 52% and 62%, compared to the existing rate of 33%.

Yesterday, only a day before the committee vote, the gas and oil companies - and their myriad lobbyists - packed the Knesset halls and stepped up pressure on the politicans. During the day, representatives of the oil and gas companies even tried to reach a deal with the Finance Ministry. By the terms of the proposed deal, the companies would agree not to challenge the new law in court in return for a number of tax breaks and other benefits. But the treasury said it had no authority to make such a deal.

MKs on the Finance Committee will have to raise their hands dozens of times today while voting on all the different sections of the bill, which has 48 sections and is 29 pages long. Since the bill has already been read out officially before the committee over the past two weeks, when today's session starts at 3 P.M., Chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism ) will only have to read out the number of a section before it is voted upon. But a number of MKs are planning on raising a long list of objections and amendments, and each of these will also have to come to a vote.

Most committee members have not attended all the sessions, and many are expected to demand explanations during the voting. Gafni said if there is not enough time today to finish voting, MKs will have to continue tomorrow - even though a large majority have already said they will vote in favor of the proposed law.