State imposes new taxes on gas finds
Knesset adopts controversial law that could double royalties, taxes on profits from two major natural gas fields discovered off Israel's coast. PM Netanyahu: Bill will move Israel closer to energy independence
The Knesset on Wednesday adopted a controversial law that could double royalties and taxes on profits from two major natural gas fields discovered off Israel's coast.
The Israeli parliament passed the bill by a vote of 78-2, in a move Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said would "move Israel closer to energy independence."
The bill was massively opposed by oil companies, which have recently discovered two major offshore gas fields, Tamar and Leviathan, 130 kilometers (80 miles) off the northern port of Haifa.
Before those discoveries, Israel collected relatively paltry taxes and royalties, around 30%, on exploitable natural resources.
The low fees were intended to encourage local and foreign companies to take on the expensive work of exploring for gas and other resources, and are far less than those levied by many nations.
Faced with the prospect of missing out on massive windfalls from Tamar and Leviathan, the government convened a commission to draft new measures.
Under the changes, combined royalties and taxes on company profits from exploitation of natural resources will be raised from around 30% to between 52% and 62%, depending on various qualifying factors.
Netanyahu welcomed the law and praised lawmakers who, "despite pressures, voted in a huge majority for this law that safeguards the public interest," a statement from his office said.
The new fees could also be applied retroactively, prompting firms involved in uncovering the fields to launch a vociferous campaign against any increase.
Among the loudest voices against the new tariffs is US firm Noble Energy, which holds 39.6% of the rights to Leviathan.