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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 23rd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

We saw an announcement in The Forward – put there by The American Friends of Israel Civic Action Forum.

It spoke of two meetings in New York City, with Rabbi Michael Melchior, a political figure from Israel, as well as Chief Rabbi in the oil-state of Norway.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2010, 6 pm, at the Anshe Chesed Synagogue at 252 West 100 Street, near Columbia University, NYC.

MONDAY NOVEMBER 22, 2010, 7 pm, at The Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, New York University, 53 Washington Square South, between Thompson & Sulivan Streets, NYC Downtown.

It said:“TRANSFORMING ISRAELI SOCIETY – THIS WON’T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT, BUT IT’S NO LONGER A DREAM!
THE PROCEEDS FROM THE NATURAL GAS RECENTLY DISCOVERED OFF ISRAEL’S COASTLINE CAN DRAMATICALLY TRANSFORM ISRAELI SOCIETY.

THIS IS AN HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY TO BRING ABOUT A LONG OVERDUE SOCIAL REFORM, PROVIDING THE HIGHEST QUALITY OF LIFE FOR ALL CITIZENS – AS ENVISIONED BY THE FOUNDERS OF THE STATE. HOWEVER THERE ARE THOSE WHO WISH TO DEPRIVE THE CITIZENS OF ISRAEL OF THE TREMENDOUS POTENTIAL OFFERED BY THIS NATURAL RESOURCE. THEY SEEK TO KEEP THE PUBLIC’S SHARE OF PROFITS DERIVED FROM ISRAEL’S NATURAL RESOURCES AT A LEVEL LOWER THAN ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD – SO MOST OF THE PROFITS GO TO THE OIL AND GAS COMPANIES.

AT THE CORE OF OUR STRUGGLE IS THE CONVICTION THAT THE RIGHTFUL OWNERS OF ISRAEL’S NATURAL RESOURCES ARE ITS CITIZENS.

WE ARE FIGHTING TO ENSURE THAT MOST OF THE PROFITS BE INVESTED IN A SWEEPING SOCIAL REFORM.

WE MUST NOT SQUANDER THIS HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY TO FUEL A DRAMATIC UPGRADING OF ISRAELI SOCIETY.”

We clearly subscribe to every word in above manifesto – I had only the question in my mind about the involvement in this by the distinguished Rabbi-turned-politician who has a strong ego that interferes sometimes with his visions.

In effect, it was Rabbi Melchior who in 2008 joined a group of University Professors from the Ben Gurion University led by Professor Alon Tal in a new Green Movement and bad-mouthed Peer Visner, Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv, the head of the existing Green Party – with the foreseeable result that the vote was split and neither faction entered the Knesset. Had they instead joined forces, there would have been a three member green faction in the Israeli Parliament and Israel would have had a different Government. Why did this happen? Clearly – the egos involved.

Further, in December 2009, in Copenhagen at the Climate Change convention, I looked for Rabbi Melchior – who is Danish, his father the former Chief Rabbi lives there, he was born there, and in disbelief, the new Chief Rabbi, at an event with global religious Greens, told me that Michael Melchior did not come home.

So, I went to the advertised events, first to the one organized by Professor Jonathan Shorsch of Columbia University, listened to the amiable Rabbi – and could not agree more.

I will not get involved with the figures and history of the drilling beyond saying that the quantities found will make the entrepreneurs multi-billionaires beyond their present status. Further, the way they skinned the State of Israel is nothing short of what is done to any third world country. In effect much worse. To top this there is the overhanging cloud of US oil interests – and to this purpose Noble calls itself a US company. Sure, there are hints of Israeli government favoritism that allowed concessions to individuals who sold them to the two major partners – The Noble Company interests or the Tshuva Group. There is a spaghetty structure to all of it – untouchable and hard to unravel – not different then any third world country that oil was found in its territory.

OK, some of the money – it would involve in practice 10.5% in royalties and taxes that in theory are 22% but with terrible loopholes. This instead of Government income  that in the US are in theory at a 70% level and in the World at large move between 50% and 90%.

But then even if Israel gets 33% of the income – in light of the Dutch disease that showed how easy money from oil and gas was a course that destroyed the country’s agriculture and some manufacturing industries by pushing up the currency, something that was avoided later by Norway, a country that understood the income is better placed in a fund and only the interest from that Fund is used to cover the Country’s expenses. What the Rabbi suggests is that Israel establish such a fund, as he learned from his Norway experience, and uses the money only for education, pensions, and the environment. Thus we talk here about raising the Israeli government take from the oil income to 80% and use the money for above noted social and future oriented purposes. GREAT!

He amassed a serious coalition – stretching from the Communist member of the Knesset Dov Khenin who is another person in Parliament with Green and Social real credentials – to some of the leaders of the Settler movement who regard this as a National issue, and individuals from the religious parties.

On the other side there are Knesset members from the Foreign Minister’s Russian immigrants party and an army of lawyers and oil lobbyists. The Government decided to create a Commission headed by Hebrew University economist Professor  Eytan Sheshinsky.  today.brown.edu/faculty/2010/shes…)

Committee members:

Prof. Eytan Sheshinski Committee chairman

Prof. Eugene Kandel head of the National Economic Council

Mr. Shaul Tzemach director general of the Ministry of National Infrastructures

Dr. Yaakov Mimran petroleum commissioner, Ministry of National Infrastructures

Mr. Yehuda Nasradishi director of the Tax Authority

Dr. Udi Nissan budget director, Ministry of Finance

Observers:

Attorney Avi Licht assistant attorney general (economic fiscal)

Dr. Amit Friedman Bank of Israel

and according to www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id… of November 17, 2010.

They concluded: “The Committee found that the oil and gas exploration industry was given significant tax benefits that are not consistent with international practice. The main tax benefit is the depletion deduction, which offsets and neutralizes the remuneration demanded by the state by virtue of its ownership of the oil and gas deposits, which, at present, is comprised solely of royalties. Depletion deduction is a tax break that enables holders of oil and gas rights to significantly reduce their taxable income. The depletion deduction was intended to reflect the depletion of the resources in the deposits, and thus a decrease in the value of the asset. However, since no payment for the resource in the deposit was made, and the depleting asset is owned by the state, this cannot be used as a justification for the deduction and, therefore, it is actually a subsidy that is given for operations in the industry by means of a tax benefit.”

According to Rabbi Melchior, the recalculated part the government should receive according to the conclusions is 66% – or double the amount at present – this is still low considering other OECD countries – well bellow the 80% figure.

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Considering the Intervention by the US Ambassador, and the fact that the US is backing Israel on other levels, above becomes a political football with serious implications and the Rabbi is here to bring this to the attention of the Jewish lobby – with the possibility to bring about a clash of right vs. the American Right. Strange indeed if you do not understand how countries stay in the Third World for ever – even when money is on the horizon.

ON THE OTHER HAND – THE OIL WEALTH – ALREADY CONTESTED BY LEBANON – COULD ACTUALLY BECOME BASIS FOR A PEACE EFFORT MOVE – INVOLVING ISRAEL, LEBANON, AND EVEN SYRIA. THE FUTURE WILL TELL WHAT WILL PREVAIL. IN THE MEAN-TIME – IT CAN BE PREDICTED THAT THIS WILL PUT SOME FURTHER PRESSURE ON ISRAEL.

The two meetings Rabbi Melchior had in New York brought out a mainly older religious crowd – obviously more so at the Synagogue Synagogue site then at the NYU student site. As the students were already away for the Thanksgiving week – only about 5-6 students out of a total of 20 attendees, showed up – most others older people – nevertheless the questioning was very much to the point. At the NYU site there were also questions involving the environment, US interests, geopolitics, the European market for the gas and how this will play with Russian interests whose gas sales to Europe will be hurt. One young lady asked afterwards the Rabbi about how all of this plays out in Jewish law. At the Synagogue the questions were mostly about Israel internal politics.

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Rabbi Michael Melchior is a DanishNorwegian rabbi, an Israeli politician – leader of the left-wing religious party Meimad, which he represented in the Knesset.

Melchior was born in Denmark into a family whose members had served as the country’s chief rabbis for seven generations. He studied in Jerusalem and in 1980 received rabbinic ordination after which he returned to Scandinavia to serve as Chief Rabbi of the Norwegian Jewish Community. In 1986, he Immigrated to Israel where he served as International Relations Director for the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. He is still Chief Rabbi in Oslo, and his son is filling in as he spends most his time in Israel.

Melchior became involved in politics when the Meimad party was formed shortly before the 1999 elections from the movement founded by Yehuda Amital in 1988. The party joined Labor (with which it was friendly, Amital having served as a non-parliamentary minister under Shimon Peres in the early 1990s) and Gesher in forming an alliance called One Israel. In 2000, he hosted the Pope John Paul II‘s visit to Israel and said he was “very moved” by the Pope’s gesture.

The alliance won 26 seats, with Melchior taking the one reserved for Meimad. He was appointed Minister of Social and Diaspora Affairs in Ehud Barak‘s government. After Barak lost a special election for Prime Minister to Ariel Sharon in 2001, Melchior lost his post, but was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, though he lost his new job in November 2002 when Labor pulled out of the national unity government Sharon had formed.

He was re-elected to the Knesset in the 2003 elections as Meimad’s sole representative, and was appointed Deputy Minister of Education, Culture, and Sport when Labor joined the coalition government in January 2005. In June 2006 he became Deputy Minister of Social and Diaspora Affairs, but again lost his position when Labor pulled out of the coalition.

He retained his seat again in the 2006 elections and chaired the Education, Culture, and Sports Committee and the Social-Environmental lobby in the 17th Knesset.

After Meimad left its alliance with the Labor Party, it ran a joined list with The Green Movement in the 2009 elections, with Melchior at the head of the list. However, the party failed to cross the electoral threshold of 1.5% and Melchoir lost his seat.

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BACKGROUND:

The web pages as suggested by Rabbi Melchior are: www.Israel-Restart.com and www.Israel-Restart.com

Further –

The Noble Corporation: By the early 2000s, Noble Drilling changed its name to Noble Corporation as a result of its change in domicile from the United States to the Cayman Islands.

On December 19, 2008, Noble, incorporated in the Cayman Islands and operated from Sugar Land, Texas, announced plans to reincorporate in Switzerland. In March 2009, Noble Corporation redomesticated to Switzerland. At that time it was removed from the S&P500 Index.

In June 2010, Noble Corporation entered into a definitive agreement to buy Frontier Drilling for US$2.16 billion.

Noble completed the purchase of Frontier in late July 2010. As a result, Noble’s fleet grew by seven units to a total of 69 offshore drilling units (including five drilling rigs currently under construction), which are located worldwide, including in the Middle East, India, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, the Mediterranean, the North Sea, Brazil, West Africa and Asian Pacific. Noble also owns and operates the dynamically positioned floating production, storage, offloading vessel, FPSO Seillean.

Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. is doing the drilling in the sea area between Israel, Lebanon and Cyprus and Noble Energy Mediterranean is the operating company based in Israel.

Delek and Noble Energy are part of the Yam Tethys consortium, which has discovered natural gas in commercial quantities offshore Israel. The partners in Yam Tethys are Noble Energy (47%), Delek Drilling (25.5%), Avner (23%), and Delek Group Ltd. (4.44%).

In July 2009, Israel’s state-owned Israel Electric Corp said its directors had approved a plan to buy 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas from the Yam Thetis consortium for $1 billion over the next five years.

Delek-controlled companies and partners led by Noble Energy in January 2009 announced a find at the Tamar prospect that may hold 7.7 trillion cubic feet of gas (218 billion cubic meters), according to a survey by Netherland, Sewell & Associates Inc. That’s more than twice the annual output of Norway, the world’s second-largest gas exporter. The partners have secured about $11 billion in domestic gas commitments and expect output by 2012.

In August 2010 the consortium announced even a larger find – the Leviathan gas field discovery that might hold also 4.2 billion barrels of oil.

The legend has it that when the Noble interests started their first search for oil in Israel, they did this with the Bible in their hands and that it was the Bible-belt in Texas that spurred their interest in the Holy land.

The Levant Basin, where he original Tamar is located, and which stretches the length of Israel and Lebanon, may hold 227 trillion cubic feet of gas, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a report released April 8, 2010, its first review of the region.

Yitzhak Tshuva, a self-made Israeli billionaire  whose father immigrated from Libya, was listed at No. 214 on the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people in 2007 with $4 billion, but in the 2010 listing he comes up only as 463 and $2.1 billion. He owns real estate in the US including the old Plaza Hotel in New York City, but also the Delek Oil company in Israel which owns 4% of Noble Energy Company. He owns gas filling stations in the US, Israel and Europe. In France he bought up recently  the BP stations. His recent losses were in real estate.

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Developments in Natural Gas and Oil Explorations. – From an Israeli Government site.
See more: USGC report – The Land of “Milk and Honey”… and Natural Gas.

Following the developments in the last few months, Israel is on the verge of absorbing impressive amounts of local extracted natural gas into its energy market. The updated map of Israel’s offshore gas potential include 3 major fields: Mari-B field located offshore the towns of Ashdod and Ashkelon, Dalit and Tamar fields located offshore the city of Haifa and the town of Hadera, and the Leviathan field, south-east of Tamar.

The Mari-B field is operated by Yam Tethys, a consortium comprised of Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL) and Delek Group Ltd. (TASE: DLEKG), since 2004. The Tamar field is operated by Noble Energy, which was given in August an approval by the state to develop and deploy gas from Tamar via Yam Tethys’ infrastructures on Mari-B. The third big field is Leviathan, which received major optimistic assessments for its huge potential this late May, enough to probably transform Israel into a natural gas exporter.

Noble Energy owns 36% of Tamar, Delek Group subsidiaries Avner Oil and Gas LP (TASE: AVNR.L) and Delek Drilling LP (TASE: DEDR.L) each own 15.625%, Isramco Ltd. (Nasdaq: ISRL; TASE: ISRA.L) owns 28.7%, and Dor Alon Energy in Israel (1988) Ltd. (TASE:DRAL) unit Dor Alon Energy Exploration Ltd. owns 4%. Noble Energy and Delek Group jointly own Yam Tethys, and both companies are partners in the Leviathan structure, together with Ratio Oil Exploration (1992) LP (TASE:RATI.L).

Regulation and the Sheshinsky Committee:

Due to these encouraging findings and calls from the public to reassess the tax regulation on profits from these natural resources, the ministry of finance assembled a committee to examine this issue, headed by Prof. Eytan Sheshinsky. The committee is due to hand in its conclusions this October.

Oil Explorations:
In addition to latest developments in the natural gas market, there are also signs for oil in Israel. Givot Olam is a public partnership devoted to oil search in Israel. Positive signs for oil were found in Givot’s search areas, near the towns of Rosh Haayin and Kfar Saba in Central Israel.

All this hullabaloo is strange to Israel, a country not known for its natural resources. Being placed between the great water sources of Mesopotamia and the Nile, Israel had to pray for water throughout history and until new technologies for drilling for gas and oil came about – had neither. Will it insist now to live up to its intellectual power, or it will bow to the oil curse? Will the World Bank and the UN institutions tell the African countries to learn also from the Norwegian example and use funds for their National Development? Could this be a case in point for OPEC countries also? Is here a new world in the making – based on fossil fuels – no less? The stranger it gets?

In answer to my two public questions to Rabbi Melchior at the Sunday meeting, one dealing with his being instrumental in splitting the Green movement in Israel, and the other why he did not come to the Copenhagen meeting, the honorable Rabbi was kind to answer in what amounts to his having been interested in the social movement he was trying to establish as an extension of his Meimad party. In effect this is not a Green Movement as such, and as he knew that nothing was going to come out from the Copenhagen meeting he decided against coming to Copenhagen.

He likes rather to go to places that turn out results, and that is why one months before Copenhagen, part of the tun-up to Copenhagen, he went to the Windsor Castle religious-leaders meeting that was organized by the UN Secretary-General, and where he represented the Jewish Green leadership.

We clearly understand his feelings about Copenhagen, but are hard pressed about his evaluation of the Royal Windsor/UN pomp. I wish he spent some learning days at the UN in New York. Also, I was astonished how the Lady Rabbi of the Synagogue where Rabbi Melchior spoke on Sunday did not grasp that the questions and answers had significant value indeed. We hope that the present effort will have more positive results.

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Noble Energy CEO: Will Lobby Vs Israel Raising Energy Taxes …
Nov 12, 2010 … HOUSTON -(Dow Jones)- Noble Energy Inc. (NBL) Chief Executive Charles D. Davidson said Friday he will lobby against the possibility of …
 www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2010/…

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Noble Energy Moves Forward With Israeli Project
Nov 1, 2010 … Noble Energy made good progress on its Israeli offshore portfolio of assets and increased its acreage position in a key onshore play in the …
 stocks.investopedia.com/stock-ana…

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News for noble energy
Noble Energy (NBL) Approaches New Downside Target of $80.33? – 5 minutes ago – November 23, 2010
SmarTrend has detected shares of Noble Energy (NYSE: NBL) have bearishly opened below the pivot of $82.26 today and have reached the first level of support …
Benzinga

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