While the energy companies portray themselves as the aggrieved party in the government’s move to break up their natural gas holdings, a different picture emerged during a special Knesset session on Thursday.
MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni (UTJ) told of the arm-twisting tactics employed for years against him and others who stood up to the powerful lobby.
“They have for years been hounding me because of my views and actions,” he said.
“Already in 2004, when as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee I legislated the Mediterranean Coast Law,” which prevents over-building on Israel’s coast, “the big builders began a campaign to pressure me to back down and let them develop as they wished.”
The pressure intensified later on, when he endorsed the findings of the Sheshinski Committee, which recommended reducing the percentage take of the gas field developers.
That pressure, said Rabbi Gafni, included various types of intimidation. “It is hard to describe it,” he told the MKs. “They went to our rabbis, they went to Hagaon Harav Shlomo Yosef Elyashiv, zt”l, “demanding that he force me to back down. They told him that I had violated deals and promises, and that I was even responsible for harming Israel’s relationship with the United States.”
Now, he said, they are using the same kind of high-pressure tactics on other MKs to get the regulators to back down on the threatened breakup of their holdings.
“They have no qualms about using any and all tactics, including scare tactics, to warn MKs off from ensuring that all Israelis enjoy the benefit of the country’s gas discoveries.”
But, said Rabbi Gafni, the natural gas deposits are gifts from G-d to the people of Israel, and they belong to all Israelis — not just to the “tycoons” who financed their development.