Controlling our future

Protestors block a road in Tel Aviv during a demonstration against privatization and exportation of natural gas. June 19,2013. Photo by: Keren Manor/
Demonstration against exportation of natural gas, Tel Aviv, Israel, 19.06.2013 || Protestors block a road in Tel Aviv during a demonstration against privatization and exportation of natural gas. June 19,2013. Photo by: Keren Manor/

Controlling our future

Israel’s natural gas must remain here for the good of its residents. Otherwise, generations to come will rue the decision.

Israel’s natural resources are the driving force behind the country’s future. For years these resources have been pawned off to privately owned companies controlled by tycoons, and in the current era these resources are exported elsewhere.

It is no coincidence that Makhteshim Agan Industries (one of the world’s largest agrochemical companies) was sold to the Chinese and Eden Springs Ltd. was sold to a foreign capital fund for more than a billion dollars. If Israel decides to go the tycoon route and export over half our natural gas, we will be faced with a new reality in which our fate will be determined by foreigners. Israel’s future must be kept in its own hands.

This is not only about the exportation of our resources. It is about the future of every worker in the gas production plants. Domestic management can assume responsibility for the workers and their job security. Foreign management will minimize this responsibility and alienate them, with no sense of responsibility for the welfare of the local communities they represent. According to estimates, the State of Israel and its citizens will lose 600 billion shekels ($165 billion) from gas export deals — the same gigantic funds that could instead be invested in education, welfare, health, infrastructure and erasing the huge gaps between the rich and poor.

Allegedly, the tycoons will request autonomy over deciding whether to export the gas. They will also present rational justifications for their business plans. But the rush to demand that the gas be exported arouses significant suspicions. Why is the decision on such an enormous amount of money not the subject of profound debate? After all, this sum can and would certainly alter the future of Israeli society. This is especially true considering the world’s economic crisis, recession and general instability of global markets. Would we really squander this gift the land has given us, and put it in foreign hands instead of investing it for the sake of our own needy?

The truth is that this is about the lobbyists who work for the gas companies and who are rushing to push Israel into the pockets of the tycoons. There is not enough information about the gas reservoirs or about the exact needs the Israeli market has for them. Can a decision about a large portion of the national budget be made in a debate from which the public is absent? After all, the government, which is supposed to represent the public’s interests, is unable to withstand the will and pressure applied by the lobbyists and tycoons.

Remember how the Sheshinski committee changed the royalty rate to be received by the country? Indeed, this is precisely how we as citizens, by focusing our struggle against the export of our natural gas, can change the face of our future.

This is about more than just economic and social interests, it is about an environmental decision of the utmost importance, because natural gas can replace more polluting methods of energy production. This is about quality of life for the country’s citizens, which can drastically change for the better.

As stated, the ultimate decision must be made by the Knesset, not just by the cabinet — if for no other reason than because this is not a regular decision.

Remember what happened to other countries that rushed to export their energy reserves and then became dependent on more expensive alternatives. The natural gas is a strategic resource, and for the security of Israel let us keep it in our own hands.

This op-ed was first published on ISRAEL HAYOM