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.
Internet-based social networks played a significant role in shaping the identities of the winners and losers in these elections. Yair Lapid leaned heavily on his Facebook page, proving the social media website to be very effective in helping him and his Yesh Atid party succeed big time. On the other hand, Eretz Chadasha (“New Country”) used innovative tools on its site, but did not gain entry to the Knesset.
Eretz Chadasha, headed by Rani Blair and Eldad Yaniv, pioneered the method of broadcasting campaign ads on YouTube, way before the campaign ad cycle even officially started. The volume of activity on the Internet was large, but it failed to realize its subversive potential. The network devoted itself to buzz, and all the party “chatter” developed a support base. Supporters asked Yaniv to drop out of the race shortly before the election if it became clear the party would not be able to garner enough votes to pass the threshold. Yaniv did not heed their call.
Eretz Chadasha crafted a new form of campaigning. The party stood up to the wealthy class, uncovered its secrets, and yet failed to act transparently from within its own movement. It depended on a massive advertising campaign on the popular Mako website and belated support, which arrived all too late from the media. Eretz Chadasha claimed that the buzz on social media would help grab some seats.
Still, many have criticized the idea that political discussion on online social networks can translate into more seats. Up to the very last minute, Eretz Chadasha proceeded with its head stuck in the social media universe and did not even take a look at the reality outside. Despite the buzz, subversion and YouTube views, it failed to succeed in the most basic aspect of elections — bringing voters to the polls. This requires more work. Parties need real power bases, with activists on the ground, venturing out to the peripheral areas of the country to campaign. Parties have to work in the field and not just pound their keyboards. The big question is whether Eretz Chadasha is ready to work in the field for the next four years, or whether the party’s efforts were just a flicker in Israeli politics.
Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party were the big surprise in this election, transforming the election into a fascinating event. Many critics mocked Lapid’s Facebook efforts. Lapid used Facebook as a platform for free and open dialogue, though not always addressing the most difficult questions. Quite a few voters understood that they could find Lapid on Facebook; they sat on his tail and definitely tried to rattle him. Lapid, like many other leaders, realized the power of the network, so that is where he based his campaign. He managed to earn for himself an image of some Left, a lot of Center and even a drop of Right in his politics, always using the power of focusing on the middle class.
Tens of thousands supported Lapid on Facebook, viewing him as a candidate to rival even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the amount of private support he received. But commentators did not take Lapid’s Internet success seriously; it seemed virtual and impossible. Some gambled on other political stars. Lapid, however, realized that he could make use of the symbolic capital he has earned over the years in countless media appearances on his own and as the son of Tommy Lapid, the leader of the once-upon-a-time Shinui party, a secular Zionist party that was founded in 1974 and split into factions in 2006.
Eretz Chadasha tried to use only new media to be elected, and fell short. Lapid, a former broadcaster on Channel 2 and a Yedioth Ahronoth columnist, brought his stardom from the old media to Facebook and won big.
The op-ed was first published on “Israel Hayom“