Two huge deals that took off from the Persian Gulf unexpectedly landed here in less than 24 hours: the investment fund of the Qatar government led an investment of about 200 million dollars in the Israeli-American cyber company Snyk; Whereas the Abu Dhabi Investment Fund acquired control of the Phoenix Insurance Company – the largest institutional body in Israel – for approximately 670 million dollars.
The power of money – any money, from any source – always amazes me. Its power almost always defeats any other interest: public, social, administrative, ethical. The mere transfer of capital from pocket to pocket, and above all the potential of getting rich, immediately make the transaction one that “should not be rejected outright”. And when the capital that changes hands is huge, this “huge” is enough to provide a stamp of legitimacy.
Does Qatar finance terrorism? Flirting with Al Qaeda? Who cares if she joins a cyber company, as long as she arranges a “down round” for us that makes sense in these difficult times; The Abu Dhabi Foundation is actually a non-transparent arm of an absolute monarch to promote his interests? Who cares that the pensions of the Israelis will come under her control, as long as she arranges for the owners of the control of Phoenix 2.5 times the money; Are the billions flowing from the Gulf a product of polluting oil and gas, the price of which has skyrocketed because of the brutal war in Ukraine? Leave us with your mother, beautiful soul.
The Phoenix deal requires the approval of the Capital Market Authority, which is apparently an independent and powerful regulator, entrusted with the preservation of our savings. But the capital market authority of recent years is a battered body, the head of which has already retired and has not even appointed a replacement, only an acting one.
One only needs to examine the helplessness that the authority demonstrated in the face of the mistakes of Shlomo Eliyahu, who controls the tower, to understand what its strength and determination is today. Anyone who has not been able to restrain an Israeli dominator who has been making meatballs out of her for a decade, will have a very difficult time dealing with a formidable economic arm of a foreign country. Certainly when it will be backed by the pressures of politicians and plenty of state interests that will be pulled out when necessary. If Shlomo Eliyahu changes CEOs like socks, who will say anything to Abu Dhabi when you want to change a representative on the board?
To get an idea of how it will work, one can recall the abuse suffered by David Gila, formerly the antitrust commissioner, when he refused to approve the gas outline. He was forced to resign, the minister in charge of him also resigned, and finally the Prime Minister took the authority and signed what was necessary. The political and economic interest prevailed over any other consideration.
Anyone who needs another illustration of the regulator’s handlessness in the face of powerful foreign forces got it immediately after the Tamar reservoir was transferred to Chevron, two years ago. The American energy giant refused to sell the gas to the electric company at the price agreed with the other partners, simply because it did not suit it. The Electricity Authority and the Competition Authority, which are supposed to stop such a unilateral act, did not really help, and the matter ended in a compromise, not to mention folding.
By the way, Tamar, the fund from Abu Dhabi already bought last year from Yitzchak Tshuva his share in the Israeli gas reservoir. So those who in the future will seek to supervise her in connection with our pensions, will be required to take into account another lever of power that is in her hands. Because if money has purifying power, energy has real magical power.
And all this happened before the regulators in Israel were crushed under the feet of the ministers and the catchy slogans “enough for the rule of officials” and “increasing governance”. The nascent government, not yet established, is already building convoluted constructions and changing the structure of the regime, just to transfer more power into its hands. We are at the height of the war on the gatekeepers, and it is about to end in victorious defeat. It is doubtful whether in the future there will be another David Gila, or even Moshe Barkat, who will lead struggles in the name of the public’s interests.
It may not be necessary to dismiss deals like the Phoenix deal outright. It is possible that the increasing involvement of Arab countries in the Israeli economy will actually impose a degree of restraint on extreme political elements. And in any case, the money from Abu Dhabi, as Golan Hazani reveals today, has already been invested here in the Fimi Fund and the Viola Fund and also in a business partnership with Strauss.
But our pensions are not high-tech and not a private investment fund, and certainly not an experimental farm for the development of cultured meat. Our savings are meant to secure our future. This is the main consideration that must be taken into account before approving the transfer of control of the 360 billion shekels managed by Phoenix to Abu Dhabi. The recent past shows that precisely this consideration will not receive the respect it deserves when the approval of the deal comes up for discussion.