Offshore Gas Drilling 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Sheshinski Committee’s recommendations to raise oil and gas royalties may
have passed their first Knesset reading this week, but within Likud, tensions
continue to rise regarding the bill being pushed forward by Finance Minister
Yuval Steinitz and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
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and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin reportedly reached agreement on which
committee should prepare the legislation for its final readings, Economic
Affairs Committee chairman Carmel Shama-Hacohen, Likud MK, blasted the
announcement, and denied that any such decision had been made.
to Rivlin, he and Netanyahu spoke on Wednesday to try to resolve whether the
bill should be prepared in the Finance Committee or in the Economic Affairs
Committee before the question is put before the House Committee next
The two men agreed that the question of the state’s revenues from
Israel’s gas resources should be discussed in the Finance Committee, an opinion
supported by Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Inon.
Inon explained his ruling
on the subject by arguing that the legislation concerns a “fiscal system that
will be enforced upon the natural gas sector,” rather than “regularizing the
field of gas and oil speculation as a whole,” and thus belongs in the committee
whose mandate includes taxation.
The Sheshinski Committee recommended
that taxation of income from Israel’s newly discovered natural gas resources be
increased to more closely resemble the rates in other Western
Netanyahu and Rivlin also concluded that that opinion would be
the official position of the coalition during next week’s House Committee
Rivlin had opposed earlier proposals to divide the hearings on the
law, arguing that “it is not appropriate for two committees to hold hearings on
an identical subject, while inconveniencing all of the relevant bodies to attend
separate hearings on the same subjects. It could lead to a situation in which
the Knesset reaches two different – and even opposing – decisions.”
an outcome, he warned, could weaken the force of decisions made in the
But Shama-Hacohen remained obstinate regarding his committee’s
jurisdiction over the legislation, and responded to Rivlin’s announcement with
“The prime minister does not interfere in internal Knesset
matters,” he said.
“The Knesset Speaker, who caused this complication
because of his unexplainable change in positions, has no idea what he is talking
about, because nothing has yet been determined, and in any case, he is outside
of the decision-making process on this topic,” Shama-Hacohen said. “I would
recommend the Speaker concentrate more on the content of notes that he passes to
opposition members in which he criticizes the prime minister.”
fate in the Finance Committee is uncertain – although opposition parties
including Labor and Meretz are strong supporters of the legislation, individual
coalition MKs as well as members of Israel Beiteinu are less enthusiastic, and
are likely to seek major changes.