Forgive me father for I know not what I do

Netanyahu’s Pravda -- also known as Yisrael Hayom in some circles -- let some public figures ask for forgiveness and repent on their paper ahead of Yom Kippur. I’ve chosen my three “favorites”.

The activist

Here’s what Arieh Eldad, a right wing extremist member of Knesset, had to say:

MK Ariel Eldad (photo: Flickr/lisang)

“I’d like to ask forgiveness from the citizens of Judea and Samaria. My colleagues and I did not prevent the prime minister of Israel from freezing construction in the Jewish settlements for the past 10 months”.

Mr. Eldad, I hope -- with G-d’s help -- that you will in a few years time be asking forgiveness from all those settlers you pushed into Palestinian land, when they will be evacuated and see their homes and lives ruined -- just as I hope you asked forgiveness from the settlers of Gush Katif, who are still struggling due to your extreme policies.

The parliamentarian

And here’s what MK Anastasia Michaeli, a comrade from Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, had to say:

” Yom Kippur is an excellent opportunity to ask forgiveness first and foremost from my family, my 8 children and my beloved husband, who unfortunately do not get as much attention as they should”.

Maybe, Anastasia, that’s because you spend your days in the plenum teaching us what democracy is all about. For example, by attacking fellow Knesset members.

Based on this video, where you’re seen being held back by others before you strangle Arab MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad), I have a pretty good idea who you could ask forgiveness from. But there are probably better chances of me fasting on Yom Kippur than you doing that…

The merciful

And last but not least, my favorite bearded racist of all times (second only to his mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef) -- Interior Minister Eli Yishai. After deciding to deport 400 children of foreign workers, a-la-Sarkozy-gypsy-style, I actually was naive enough to hope he was going to show some heart.

“I want to ask forgiveness from all the people of Israel, from each and every one who saw himself hurt from anything that I said…

A different forgiveness is the one that should be asked by the foreign workers from the children, first of all their own children, that they hurt during the last campaign against the law passed by the government of Israel. They should apologize for using them for their own purposes, and maybe even for causing them mental damage and severe trauma. They should also ask forgiveness from their families abroad. They have father and mothers and sisters and brothers that they abandoned there and now they must go back to them”.

Oh, Eli, Eli, Eli. Ya think? It’s like you’re on another planet.

You should be asking those kids for forgiveness. But do me a favor: Don’t! Spare them having to thank and shake the hand of a backward, primitive man like you. Heck, maybe letting them leave this place, this state that you and your likes are turning into a fascist state, is the best thing that could have happened to them.

The author

I wrote this post on Yom Kippur. Forgive me.

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Tribe One and Tribe Two: From “proximity” to “direct”

(To fully enjoy, read the first episode of Tribe One and Tribe Two here)
Our first interlude -
I remember,
I do!
Concluded with hope for Tribe One and Tribe Two

The two showed that when they are willing,
They’re able
To even approach the negotiating table

But Oy!
Look what happened!
(Hold on to your socks)
They failed!
They trashed those proximity talks!

Wow, no one saw that come!
How could they?
Who knew?
I really had high hopes for those,
Didn’t you?

You smile and you sneer
You make light of this chasm?
How dare you?
What nerve,
to display such sarcasm!

Since then
Since that failure you knew to envision
The Tribes have returned to a track of collision

Tribe Two tried to send out a boat to its mates
A Gaza-bound convoy
With goods stocked in crates

But Tribe One got word of it lickety split
“You will not break my siege!
I will not stand for it!”

Tribe One sent some soldiers,
The best it could find
To board that flotilla
To go change their mind

But alas,
The “peace activists” on the bateau
They greeted those soldiers
With quite a fierce blow

One with a rod,
and one with a dagger
Those surefooted soldiers
Soon started to stagger

It didn’t end well
Though the soldiers were skilled
The blood of 9 fighters from Tribe Two was spilled

The outrage was fierce
And the world turned irate
“What’s wrong with Tribe One?
Can’t they ever think straight?”

The pressure got tighter
Tribe One felt its grip
So it eased its infarction surrounding the Strip

Since then it’s been quiet
There’s been much less drama
But someone’s been busy -
A cat named Obama!

“I’m tired of this nonsense,
with all due respect,
Forget the ‘proximity’ -
Let’s go ‘direct’”!

The cat tipped his hat
And said “Stop the artillery!”
And just then he ushered in Clinton, the Hillary

The Hillary
had a wan look on her face
Like she’d bite anyone
who dared get on her case

“Now listen!”
She screamed
But it sounded quite shrill
(One wonders if this is the tone saved for Bill…)

“Next Thursday we’re meeting
With Hosni and King,
and you’d better come with what I told you to bring!”

She just kept on yelling
It’s all she could do
But she sure sent a chill up Tribe One and Tribe Two

They RSVP’d
with a no-brainer “yes!”
“If they want us to talk,
we should do so,
We guess”

But now I must sadly,
proceed to unveil:
Tribe One and Tribe Two
think these talks are to fail.

So here we have come
With Tribe One and Tribe Two
With the Cat in the Hat and the Hillary, too

Will they talk?
Will they speak?
Will they negotiate?
Are Tribe One and Tribe Two to step up to the plate?

(Stay tuned after the failure of the talks, for my next best-seller:
One Talks,
Two Talks,
Three Talks,

Cross posted at +972

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Reservoir Dogs: The most heated debate in Israel you probably never heard of

One of the most heated debates you’ve probably never heard of going on in Israel these days is over natural gas. Ever since reports began to surface on the huge reservoirs of gas off the coast of Israel, the discussion over who the it belongs to and how much money everybody is going to make from it seems to get uglier by the day. In fact, this is probably one of the most intense debates you’ll find today between tycoons and regulators around the world.

But now, what until recently was solely an economic discussion has suddenly turned political. Left vs. Right. Zionists against “anti-Zionist traitors”. “Israeli gas vs. Arab gas”.

This is a complicated story, but one that should be told, if only due to the huge amounts of money involved and its possible ramifications. According to the financial daily Calcalist, the argument is over approximately 500 million dollars a year – for the next 20-40 years, depending on exactly how much gas there is. That’s over 1% of Israel’s tax revenue in 2009. Sums like this could not only change the standard of living in Israel itself, but also its geopolitical and economic standings in the area.

So what’s the story, and how did politics suddenly get involved? First, let’s look at the stars of this gas opera:

* The three little reservoirs: Yam Thetys, about 30 km off the shores of Ashdod, held 32 BCM (billion cubic meters) of natural gas before it started to pump gas to Israel. This reservoir is controlled by Noble Energy and Yitzhak Tshuva’s Delek Group (more on them later…), and after signing an agreement in 2002 with the Israeli Electric Company, the gas started flowing in 2004. As of today, there are about 20 BCM left in the reservoir and it’s annual revenue has reached  about 520 million dollars a year.

Tamar and Dalit: Off the coast of Haifa, Tamar and Dalit are two huge reservoirs with a combined 252 BCM, supposedly to be available by 2012. Annual revenues are expected to hover around 2 billion dollars. Noble and Tshuva control this one, too.

Leviathan: An appropriate name for this humongous reservoir. The latest reports say there’s at least a 50% chance of finding gas in Leviathan, which is a reservoir that basically surrounds Tamar and Dalit. In the gas industry, 50% are considered very good numbers. If the estimates are correct, Leviathan could have a whopping 453 BCM, which could produce annual revenues of 2.3 billion dollars. And yes, Noble and Tshuva control this whale of a reservoir, too.

* 12.5%: The rate of annual royalties that must be paid by the drillers of Israeli gas reservoirs to the State of Israel, according to a law written in… 1952. Yup. This law hasn’t been updated for decades. And why would it have? Israelis have always considered it a given that they’re screwed. The typical kvetching went along the lines of: “Everybody (all our “enemies”) around us has have gas and oil, except for us poor Jews”.

Compared to other countries, Israel has one of the lowest royalty rates around. And when it comes to Noble Energy drillings, Israeli royalties are the lowest it’s paying compared to its activities in the U.S., Ecuador, China, the Northern Sea and Africa.

* The entrepeneurs: Noble Energy is one of the biggest companies in the U.S. and drills all over the world. Based in Houston, Texas, it had a second quarter revenue of 750 million dollars in 2010. Noble holds 47.1% in Yam Thetys, 36% inTamar and Dalit, and 39.6% in Leviathan.

Yitzhak Tshuva is one of Israel’s richest. He owns the Delek Group, which is involved in energy and infrastructure, real estate, insurance and financial services and automotive sectors. He also controls an energy company called Avner. Delek and Avner hold 53% of Yam Thetys, 31% of Tamar, and 45% of Leviathan.

* Yuval Steinitz. In early April, Israel’s Finance Minister says he thinks it might be time to take a look at Israel’s royalty policy if 12.5%, which is indeed very low. He appoints Professor Eitan Shashinsky to head a committee to review the said policy.

* The Shashinsky Committee immediately comes under pressure from the entrepeneurs, from Israeli officials – even U.S. officials have reportedly complained to Israeli counterparts about the possibility of hurting Noble’s income –  and from anyone who anything to say about it. Reports surface that the committee is considering hiking the royalties up to 24%. That difference, of 11.5%, was calulated by Calcalist to be 500 million dollars a year – the basis for the argument.

So, just until a few months ago everything seems to be doing well. But then comes the announcement in early June by Noble Energy that Leviathan is way bigger than they thought, and that the chances of pumping gas from it are fairly high. Here’s where things start to get messy.

A debate is held for weeks over the issue of raising the royalties or not in all the financial media. The reasons ranging between the need for Israel to act for the benefit of its citizens to the need to be “fair” with tycoons who went into a deal on certain terms. All arguments are legitimate and well founded. Until, of course, the politics start to stink everything up.

* New Israel Fund – On the 21st of July the NIF, along with other NGO’s send a letter to the committee recommending a hike in royalties. The NIF does not do this for any known political reason, but as we all know, lately anything the NIF attracts a lot of attention.

* The Forum for the Land of Israel – Upon hearing of the NIF’s involvment, the Forum smells blood and goes on a nationwide campaign to smear the NIF’s involvment, with ads that say: “Warning: The NIF is fighting for Arab gas”. The forum also points out that Shashinsky’s wife is a member of the NIF, thus posing a conflict of interests for the chairman.

The forum’s campaign cost 2 million shekels, and was run by EDK – a media consulting firm headed by Moshe Klugehft, who also happened to spearhead the ugly Im Tirzu campaign against the NIF and its chairman Naomi Chazan. Klugheft is also MK Ronit Tirosh’s media advisor and when MK’s needed someone to write a song for them to sing in praise of the commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara, guess who wrote the lyrics? You got it, Klugheft.

Yossi Meiman – So now you must be asking ‘Wait, what did they mean by ‘Arab gas’?” Well, the forum claims that if royalties are raised, the gas from the sole competitor to Israeli suppliers will be cheaper. And that sole competitor, who will apparently gain from this hike, is Yossi Meiman. Another Israeli tycoon. Who’s also into gas. And with his companies Merhav and Ampel holds 21% of EMG – the Egyptian gas company that supplies to Israel.

Yossi Meiman. Holdings in EMG (Nir Landau for Walla!)


As pressures mount on the committee, Steinitz holds a special press conference just yesterday in defense of Shashinsky and the other members.

“The personal smears against Prof. Eytan Sheshinski, the harassment, the demonstrations in front of his house, the attempts to meddle with him and his family … all this is unacceptable,” Steinitz said.

“Anyone who wishes to express his opinion can do so, and those who are involved in the oil and gas sector, if they have the money, are entitled to hire half the publicists in the country and pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars for their opinion,” Steinitz said.

“It’s legitimate, and it’s legitimate to publish the opinion across entire pages in the press, but it is inconceivable that they would try to personally harass and attack the committee and its members. All the more so the committee chairman – a well-known professor who took on the task as a volunteer and agreed to my request to chair it.”

So there you have it folks. That’s what this discussion has turned into: If you’re a lefty, you’re for hiking the royalties, weakening Israel and strengthening the Arabs. If you’re a righty, well – it’s pretty obvious.

What’s funny is, that here is where Yuval Steinitz and myself don’t fit into the mold. Steinitz, a known hawk in the Likud – wants to raise royalties. And me? Well, you all know I’m a lefty. But I’ll bet you didn’t know I’m for keeping the royalties as they are. At least for the current drillings. For all I care, they can raise them to 50% – as long as it’s not retroactively.

So, this is probably the only case I’ll ever find myself at odds with the NIF. Certainly the only case I’ll find myself on the same side of a fascist movement like the Forum for the Land of Israel.

See, the things is – Noble and Tshuva put their money where their mouth is. They invested – and so did the people who bought their stock – in a deal with certain numbers and certain business plans. They took the chance and drilled, not knowing what was going to come out, if anything. They gambled. And they won a jackpot.

In a way, these entrepeneurs shook hands with the State of Israel. And now, Israel is basically saying that it was crossing its fingers behind its back the whole time. In business, you just don’t do that.

In fact, Israel should be thankful that Noble and Tshuva took the chance, since the state will be getting millions on taxing the revenues and from the royalties. Trying to double the royalties seems nothing more than greedy.

So, are the royalties low? Yes.

Should they be raised retroactively? No.

Why? The answer couldn’t be any more simple:

 It’s just not fair.

(This article was also posted on +972 and The Huffington Post. Ami Kaufman is an editor at Calcalist)

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Israeli’s Photos on Facebook Cause Uproar

An Israeli citizen has caused outrage after posting photos of himself smiling beside taped up boxes in a Facebook album called “The Best Move of My Life“.

Ami Kaufman, 37, who has been living in the posh northern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Bavli for the past two years with his wife and 2 daughters, was shown on Israeli news websites sitting beside dozens of boxes, all packed up and ready to go.

In one of the photos it appears Kaufman is holding a roll of tape, as if about to further humiliate the pieces of carton.

Kaufman admitted the photos were “thoughtless” but insisted he did not humiliate them and was surprised the pictures offended people.

He said: “I still don’t understand what wasn’t OK. There was no statement of violence, disrespect, anything that would hurt those boxes.”

Some of the comments on the pictures from Kaufman’s Facebook friends seem to have only added oil to the fire. On one picture, Lee’ad Leevneh writes: “Yeah, you wrap that box – wrap it tight!”. Another friend, Sara Miller, takes the humiliation one step further: “That box looks like it could barely hold a pillow”.

The Israeli-Russian mover Victor said the photos were “disgraceful”, and said he was calling off the transfer of Kaufman’s belongings until he apologized to cardboard boxes worldwide. “We can’t have people treating boxes like they’re nothing, or worse – like Palestinians. Moving to Bat Yam is one thing, but this? A line must be drawn.”

Kaufman insisted his only mistake was uploading the pictures to Facebook, and that if Victor doesn’t do the job – he’ll find another Victor who will.


Was the Summer of 2009!

Dedicated to Eden Abergil and those Best Years of Her Life

(play video and sing along with the brand new words for Bryan Adam’s mega-hit)

I got my first M-16
Got it and it felt real fine
Made me want to be an officer
Was the summer of 2009

Me and Shani from the unit
Hand cuffed some Arabs nice and hard
Fadi yelled, Ahmed tried to run for it
He shoulda known, he’d never get far

Oh when I look back now
The summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Ya -- I’d always wanna be there
Those were the best days of my life

Ain’t no use in complainin’
When you got a job to do
Spent my evenin’s down at the checkpoint
And that’s when I met you

Standin on your stolen land
You asked me if I’d lift the blindfold
I told you to just shut up
I knew I had to get the picture
Those were the best days of my life

Back in the summer of 2009!

Man we were killin’ time
We were “the sexiest like that”
We needed to unwind
I wish the occupation could last forever, forever oh

And now the times are changin’
Look at everything that’s come and gone
Sometimes when I hold that M16
I think about you and how “you had a hard-on”

Standin’ on your stolen land
You asked me if I’d lift the blindfold
I told you to just shut up
I knew I had to get the picture
Those were the best days of my life

Back in summer of 2009!

Posted in Featured Half & Half by Ami Kaufman. 5 Comments