With broad-based support among both coalition and opposition members, the Sheshinski Commission’s recommendations sailed through their first Knesset reading by a vote of 38 to eight Monday night. The controversial recommendations, which opponents claim could dissuade future potential investors in Israel’s natural resources, will now be prepared for their second and third readings in the Finance Committee.
“Israel currently holds the lowest place in the world in terms of taxation of gas resources,” Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told MKs, explaining why they should join the government in supporting the legislation. “Other than the regular corporate tax, the state receives no additional benefit other than the fact that the energy companies use Israel’s natural resources.”
“Most of the western states in which oil was discovered raised their taxes,” he continued. “The average percentage of states’ take is around 60%, while Israel will receive 50%-60% on average.” Steinitz went on to assure MKs that “this income will become significant around 2015 or 2020 –and will be important for the state – some hundreds of billions of shekels, a massive sum that can serve education, welfare, national strength and the entire Zionist effort. We are doing something from which we and our children will benefit, and there is no disproportionate harm to investors.”