Musings on Israel's Current Situation

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Protesters demonstrating in Tel Aviv against the Leviathan gas platform.
Protesters demonstrating in Tel Aviv against the Leviathan gas platform, Dec. 31. 2019.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Where is the gas? Carmel coast residents returned home this week, disgraced and in mourning. They sewed fear and hysteria for months, announcing that they would flee from the exceptionally high pollution they expected from the Leviathan gas platform on the day it went into operation, lest they be poisoned and their children contract cancer. It was really atrocious. A few of them left on Tuesday for Azrieli Junction in Tel Aviv to protest against the platform.

But the devil be damned. The pollution from gas at the junction was much higher than on the Carmel coast that day. It turns out that everything the government ministries said happened, and that everything they said was charlatanism and deception. The day that gas production began, the Carmel coast was one of the cleanest areas in Israel, and the level of benzene that was discharged didn’t even approach the regulatory limit, which is one of the most stringent in the world.

However, the “home guard” cult continues to liken the gas platform to Chernobyl. They forget to mention that thanks to Leviathan the coal-fired power stations in Hadera and Ashkelon are switching to natural gas, and the air quality in their vicinity is also improving. These residents simply don’t want the gas near them. It’s a classic case of NIMBY (Not in My Backyard). They don’t want the platform to ruin their view of the sunset.

Shai Nitzan. My heart goes out to the state prosecutor. His monthly pension pay stands at a meager 50,000 shekels ($14,500), and he doesn’t know how to make ends meet. Nitzan finished his job as state prosecutor on December 16, and his salary was to have increased significantly on January 1 due to linkage to the average salary in Israel and to his seniority. In other words, he finished his term two weeks too early.

The average Joe would have thanked his lucky stars for having an enormous state-funded pension upon retiring at age 60, yet Nitzan felt he had been screwed over. So he asked Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkowitz to count the vacation days he had saved up to artificially extend his employment through January, so he would receive an addition to his pension worth hundreds of thousands of shekels. Hershkowitz said “yes,” because why be a bad guy? Is it his father’s money?

This personal dispensation is improper, as it didn’t receive approval by the Finance Ministry’s salary director, who opposes the scheme. It’s just another additional cost to the state budget precisely at the time when it needs to be cut. This outrage must be stopped.

Avi Simhon. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s economic adviser is known for not toeing the line. Simhon said this week that employers in the caregiving industry need not pay minimum wage to migrant workers, whose salary approaches $2,000 per month after additional payments. He was immediately attacked from every side: It’s immoral, it hurts the weak, it’s humiliating exploitation. Really? These workers are earning several times what they would in their home countries. They would also be happy with a salary of $1,000 a month, like it once was. You have to remember that anyone who pities the migrant workers knowingly hurts the weakest in society: the elderly and the handicapped, who pay and groan under the burden. They also deserve justice.

Haifa. I went to Haifa this week to enjoy the lights and decorations of the “Holiday of Holidays” along Ben-Gurion Boulevard, from the Christmas tree to the stunning Baha’i Gardens. I thought naively that all would be lit up and especially pretty on Tuesday, but then came the surprise. All the restaurants along the road were closed, without any decorations, lights, reindeer or sleighs. It turns out that the restaurant owners are Christians who went out to celebrate that evening rather than work. It’s their right. However, without them the road was cold and sad. It will return to itself tonight and tomorrow – the opportunity is yours.

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