Business Scene

The public was outraged when former president Katsav, who may be charged with sexual misconduct asked for an Audi and an office in the Azrieli building in Tel Aviv.

katsav angry as hell 248 88 (photo credit: AP)
katsav angry as hell 248 88
(photo credit: AP)
WHEN ONE thinks of whisky, the automatic association is Scotland from whence the brew originates. This explains why some people refer to it as Scotch rather than whisky. In fact, there are now five major whisky producing countries in the world: Scotland, Ireland, America, Canada and Japan. Blends and taste aside, the competition between the producers has ceased to be fair - at least in Israel, because the tax on Scotch whisky in Israel is higher than that on whisky blends from other countries. Affronted by this imposition on the spirit of competition British Ambassador Tom Phillips has written in protest to Finance Minister Ronnie Bar On, with a request that the tax be lowered. Karen Kaufman the press and information officer at the British Embassy couldn't say too much she explained, because it was Sunday - the embassy doesn't work on Sundays. However, she did confirm that the ambassador had indeed written such a letter and that it had been duly dispatched. "I very much hope that Israelis will soon be able to enjoy Scotch whiskey on the same basis and frequency as other spirits and liquors," said Kaufman. According to the Internet site, only whisky actually produced in Scotland can legitimately be referred to as Scotch. It is made from barley rather than the corn used in American whiskies, and its characteristic smoky flavor can be attributed to the fact that the barley is dried over peat fires. It must be aged and distilled in oak casks for at least three years, though the better whiskies are aged and distilled for five to ten years. Other than water, it may not contain any added substance and its volume of alcohol when bottled, must not be less in volume than 40 percent. That's why it's such a popular drink in winter. No sooner does it go down the hatch, than the body warms way beyond room temperature. The taste of Scotch whisky or any other for that matter varies significantly from one distiller to another, partially because of the difference in distillation techniques and ageing practices and partially because of the environmental conditions. Frequent flyers are not particularly troubled by the taxes because they can always buy their Scotch in the Duty Free stores at the airport. In detailing the history of whisky, reveals that whisky has been produced in Scotland for well over 1500 years, with the first taxes on whisky production imposed in 1644, which gave rise to a great deal of illicit distilling around the country. Around 1780, there were eight legal distilleries and 400 illegal ones. Illegal distilleries producing bootleg whisky still exist today, and produce whisky mainly for the black market. Only twenty to thirty years ago, Israelis were not known as great drinkers, and those who did drink usually downed a bottle or two of beer, rather than the stronger stuff. But in recent years, with greater affluence and increased social networking with the outside world, Israelis have discovered and developed a liking for hard liquor, and like anyone else would prefer to pay a little less for their Scotch, which even without taxes, does not come exactly cheap. MEMBERS OF Knesset and a large segment of the general public were outraged last week when former president Moshe Katsav who may be charged with sexual misconduct asked for an Audi A-6 car and an office in the Azrieli building in Tel Aviv. The Accountant General refused to accede to the actual request, but because the law entitles him and Katsav has not yet been charged with any crime, he agreed to give him a less expensive car and a more moderately priced office for a limited period of time. These perks will be removed in the event that Katsav is charged, tried and found guilty. But Katsav is not the only dignitary receiving handsome retirement conditions at the expense of the tax payer. While tens of thousands of Israelis continue to live below the poverty line and some are evicted from their homes because they can't afford to pay the rent or the mortgage, retired dignitaries are receiving amounts of up to more than NIS 1.5 million per annum. A recent report in the Hebrew press pointed to a law which says that former prime ministers, for the first five years after leaving their positions, in order to maintain contact with the public, are entitled to an office that costs the public purse around NIS 2.2m. a year. Moreover there's a telephone and newspaper allowance of NIS 10,400 per year plus an annual pension of more than NIS 40,000 per month for prime ministers, ministers, mayors and MKs. According to the report Katsav and former President Yitzhak Navon each receive NIS 1.174m. per annum. VERY SOON after his resignation, former Chief of General Staff Dan Halutz who headed military operations during the Second Lebanon War was appointed CEO of Kamor Motors which imports BMW cars to Israel. But Kamor Holdings deals with more than cars. Through its subsidiaries, it also operates Kamor Shipping and Kamor Aviation. It is in the latter category that Halutz's experience as a former Air Force Commander will serve both his employers and his clients in good stead. Kamor Aviation, imports Cessna planes for private use by business executives whose crowded itineraries don't give them the luxury of hanging around airports for scheduled commercial flights. Despite the number of multi-millionaires in Israel, Kamor Aviation does not expect to be flooded with orders, especially during a period of spiraling fuel costs. On the other hand, anyone who can afford a private plane isn't going to be overly concerned about the cost of fuel. THE MAMILLA project in Jerusalem is progressing by leaps and bounds ever since developer Alfred Akirov decided to go ahead with it after its scaffolding had remained idle for several years and was considered one of the capital's major eyesores. Soon to be completed, it promises to be one of the city's beauty spots and its shopping arcade with its panoramic views and its increasing coffee shops and other attractions has become a must both for locals and for visitors. Moreover foreign buyers seeking a foothold in Jerusalem are paying huge sums for apartments in the project, even though such apartments will remain unoccupied for most of the year as is the case with David's Village which is directly across the road. There are also some half dozen luxury hotel and apartment projects under construction within five minutes walk of the Mamilla project and most of these too are being snapped up by foreign buyers who are attracted to the neighborhood and areas close by. Residents in Jerusalem's Rehavia and Talbiya neighborhoods which are within easy walking distance of Mamilla are constantly being badgered by real estate agents who want to buy properties for eager buyers mostly from France, the US and England. There are also several residential construction projects in various stages of completion in Rehavia and Talbiya, mostly add-ons to existing buildings, but some of these add-ons comprise three floors in height which means that views which were once a selling point in Jerusalem are being completely blocked out. Akirov recently sold a 220 square meters apartment in Mamilla to a foreign buyer for more than $3m., which is ironic considering that Mamilla was once a border neighborhood which was home to the poorest of the poor because of its proximity to Jordan which hit with sniper fire. NEEMAN BAKERY proprietor Buki Neeman has purchased the Honda service station in Jerusalem's Talpiot industrial zone for NIS 9.8m. from Uzi Mantsur who is the President of Hapoel Jerusalem. The plan is to establish a central production plant on the site that will service all the coffee shops and restaurants that are part of the Neeman chain as well as other enterprises such as hotels that stock Neeman goods. The need for a central production plant has become crucial due to the chain's popularity and the number of franchise applications that Neeman is receiving. The company, one of the more veteran Jerusalem business ventures, has been operating since 1944. THE PROLIFERATION of restaurants and coffee shops in Jerusalem over the past two or three years has been nothing short of amazing considering the demographic composition of the city. Some may have quiet periods during the day but most are full for lunch and dinner, and those that operate after midnight are also well patronized. One of the fairly recent additions to the Jerusalem coffee shop scene may soon disappear. Arcaffee which joined veteran Jerusalem coffee shops Aroma and Hillel in Hillel Street where both chains first started with very little competition initially, is under threat of eviction for breach of contract and non-payment of rent. Aviv Shani Development and Construction which owns the Hillel street site, rented the premises to Arcaffe approximately a year ago after signing a contract whereby Arcaffe was supposed to transfer a series of post-dated checks to cover the rent, filed for eviction on the grounds of breach of contract in the Jerusalem Magistrates Court, claiming that the checks had not been delivered and that Arcaffe was in arrears to the tune of NIS 57,000. INTERNATIONAL JEWELRY company H. Stern has opened a VIP lounge at Ben Gurion Airport for the convenience of its clients who did not have time while visiting Israel to catch up on jewelry purchases and want to examine the merchandise in comfort and away from prying eyes or who simply want to relax. The company invested NIS 700,000 in the 120 sq. m. lounge which functions in some respects like the King David lounge for VIP passengers in that it offers light refreshments, newspapers and magazines in different languages, Internet access and LCD screens. The idea says Israel Kurt, H. Stern general manager in Israel, is to give all the company's clients the sense that they are VIPs deserving of special, personalized treatment.