Fight for the Future of Israel

Israel is not rich with natural resources. I recall a lecture I delivered about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in South Africa, a country that is blessed with many natural resources. At the end of the lecture, a student raised his hand to ask a question. He asked: Does Israel have any natural resources?

As I did not say a word on this issue during my lecture, I was a bit surprised but answered, laconically, NO.
The student insisted, elucidating his inquiry about “natural resources”.

Does Israel have oil?
Does Israel have gold?
Does Israel have something? Anything?

I reflected for a moment and then said: Actually, we have the Dead Sea with its minerals. Israel has excellent face cream.

To which the student responded:
All this mess for face cream?

Well, the picture may change. Some time ago commercial quantities of gas were discovered in Israeli territory. Estimates speak of boosting Israeli economy with the discovery of significant gas fields and moving the economy forward. Prime Minister Netanyahu promised that the fortune would enrich the citizens of Israel. Despite the pleasant promises, people who understand Netanyahu’s worldview remained skeptical. The man is a fan of Milton Friedman.

Netanyahu assigned his trusted friend Yuval Steinitz to devise a suitable plan at the end of which, surprise surprise, it became clear that the fortune will enrich the already rich pockets of very few businessmen who put their money in the infrastructure needed for the gas production. Some conscientious citizens protested. “You are robbing public money”, they screamed. There was a minor uproar, nothing that Netanyahu cannot handle. Winds have this tendency to move forward and relax.

Some decided to appeal to the High Court of Justice. On March 27, 2016, the High Court of Justice struck down the deal that Prime Minister Netanyahu reached to enable the development of the natural gas field. The court specifically objected to the agreement between the government and the project’s developers, led by Noble Energy, that prohibits changes to regulations affecting the project for 10 years.

Noble Energy is an American company based in Houston. See

Noble is cooperating with the Israeli Delek Group conglomerate. The Director of Delek is an Israeli tycoon called Yitzhak Tshuva, a very successful entrepreneur and business man with large-scale global business operations. See

Essentially, the deal that Netanyahu pursued would enable these energy companies to dictate high gas prices without government regulation for a decade. Knowing something about capitalism, you can assume that the price tag will serve the companies’ best interest, not the consumer’s. Furthermore, the deal also enables much of Israel’s gas reserves at the expense of developing the Israeli market and its energy potential. The discovery of gas fields that was said to benefit the Israeli public will benefit very few people in Israel. The vast majority will pay dearly for their gas consumption.

Why doesn’t Netanyahu nationalize the energy industry, taking the issue under government responsibility, making sure that the best interests of the Israeli public will be served?

In a sentence: Because he is a student of Milton Friedman.

The deal brings to the fore the tight relationships between the political and business elites in Israel, and between the American and Israeli energy and political companies, with the political support they enjoy in both companies.

The High Court of Justice is to serve justice and the panel of judges did not like the deal. Deputy President, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, said that the government did not have the authority to make such a long-term deal, which would bind its successors. The Court gave the government a year to devise an alternative solution.

Hardly a moment passed, and the Supreme Court became subjected to fierce attacks by the government and its proxies. Thus the fight for the future of Israel expanded to a second front concerning the identity of Israel as a democracy. Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked of the extreme right-wing party Jewish Home said that the Supreme Court behaves “irresponsibly”. It enjoys authority without responsibility and accountability. Trust Shaked that she will strive to move the Supreme Court to the right direction. She will do her best to nominate the “right” people to the Court. It is estimated that in the near future there will be five openings on the Court bench.

Supreme Court Justices are appointment by the State President upon the nominations of a special nine-member committee comprised of the President of the Supreme Court, two other Court Justices, two MKs, two ministers including the Minister of Justice, and two representative of the Israel Bar Association. The Committee is headed by the Minister of Justice, Ms. Shaked.

The fight for the future of Israel continues.