Jonathan Mark writes that if Howard Jonas and his fellow investors are successful in extracting shale oil in Israel, they will be “giving Israel a gift beyond all their prior philanthropy combined” (“The Great Israeli Oil Rush,” Nov.19). Really?
What percentage of future oil profits will go to the Israeli government, and will they be spent to alleviate Israel’s dire social problems?
These questions are now being struggled with in Israel in relation to the tremendous natural gas reserves discovered off its coast. Current, outdated Israeli law gives the Israeli treasury a 24 to 32 percent cut of any oil or gas profits. Recently, an Israeli government committee recommended that the law be changed to increase the government take to 66 percent, in line with the 55 to 88 percent take of most Western free-market democracies, including the United States.
Israeli former Knesset Member Michael Melchior has recently founded the Israel Civic Action Forum (www.israel-restart.com/en) to advocate that the government get its fair share of resources that belong to all of Israel’s citizens and that these revenues be placed in a National Investment Fund where they will be used exclusively to finance socioeconomic reforms in education, welfare, employment, housing, environment and infrastructure — similar to what is being done in Norway with the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund. With natural gas reserves valued at $300 billion, this is a one-time opportunity to upgrade Israeli society that must not be missed.