Offshore Gas Drilling 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Usually, there are two ways to approach a debated subject. The first would be to
tackle it in legal terms; the second, to tackle it on the premise of morality.
It’s been over two months since the Sheshinski Committee filed its final report
with conclusions to raise government revenues, so now would be a good time to
elevate some missed points after the heated debate has calmed down.
of the “anti-taxing” groups and individuals have made their pleas not to raise
revenues on gas income based on legal claims (unsurprisingly), while the
“pro-taxing” groups have used both debating tools in their rhetoric: legal and
I am no law expert, yet I can say fairly assuredly that the notion
of a contract being changed retroactively seems like a “dirty” thing to do.
However, it also seems that signing a contract with the state immediately puts
both sides in an uneven equation.
In other words, signing a contract with
the state is not the same as signing a contract by two private entities. This
might not be “fair,” yet it is what reality dictates in our modern “practical”
That the representatives of the energy companies
are not threatening to go to court after the final Sheshinski report was
released certainly reinforces this point.
So a question arises: If the
legal claims to support the gas companies’ interests were so weak, how come
those were the only ones illuminated to the public? Where were the moral claims?
Sure, the spokespeople talked about the threat of depending on Egyptian gas
(which actually sounds very real right now), they talked about losing foreign
investors, about the loss of entrepreneur motivation – all very pragmatic and
sensible claims. Yet, can they hold up against the moral perception of the
public’s natural resources being stolen by rich oligarchs? I don’t think
If you go out to the battlefield carrying only a knife, while your
opponent carries a gun, well, you don’t have too many chances of winning, do
you? Being unable to speak about this economic issue in moral terms means you
have lost the battle before you even tried to put up a fight.
of a “public natural resource” has been brought up so many times that the
regular Moshe from Rehovot felt immediately as if someone was cheating him from
what is rightly his.
John Locke, the English political philosopher of the
17th century, also known as “the Father of Liberalism,” would wholeheartedly
In his book Two Treatises of Government he explains the moral
principles of private property.
In short, God created the universe for
all men. Nature and its resources belong collectively to the entire human
One must ask then: If an apple on a tree belongs to all human
beings, how would one person get the consent of all men to use that apple for
his private well-being? Before he even finishes walking to and fro in his close
community asking for consent to eat the collective property, the apple, he would
starve to death.
Locke’s solution therefore is simple: Nature belongs to
all men, yet when man sets his actions into work, the natural resource becomes
his own. Plowing the land, chopping a tree or walking to a stream of water to
quench man’s thirst: all considered a working effort that earns the right to
private property, differentiated from other people’s non-actions.
the virtue of work turns the collective into private. To claim something as your
own you need first to prove you actually created that something. The
“pro-taxing” groups claims the gas belongs collectively to Israeli citizens,
although I never knew that Israelis have created that gas; in fact, in case they
did, I would like to know why on earth did they bury it so deep underwater in
the first place! I doubt the collectivists have an answer for that
The contract between the government and the gas companies was, in
fact, unjust from the start. It was unjust because it assumed, for some odd
reason, that the land out at sea “belonged” to the state. It assumed that the
state has a “right” to claim revenues over something that was never hers to
No property can belong collectively to a group of people.
Even stock shares are divided into sections, and those sections belong solely to
their private owner. There is no such thing as a collective property. There’s no
such thing as a “public resource.”
Look around you. The chair you’re
sitting on, the desk in front of you, your pencil that you use to write with –
everything comes from nature. Why is natural gas held to a different standard
then? The only resource available to man is man himself. Man’s mind, spirit and
reason are his only assets to prosperity. It is not luck, who you know or
whether you happen to live above a gold mine. Any product created in this world
was not created by itself with some unnatural powers, but by man’s thoughts and
Well, of course there’s another way of getting hold of
resources. You could do it by the use of coercive force, hold a gun to a
person’s head and demand that that person gives you what he created with his own
Thus, man has two options to choose from: earning resources or
stealing resources. There’s just no other way of doing it. And I think it is
fairly clear which option the government has chosen in this case.Natan
Galili is a political science, communications and journalism student at the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem.