Yosef Maimon, one of the leading shareholders in East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG), is the Israeli face of the Egyptian-Israeli venture. Instead of putting all his cards on the table, and explaining to his customers what exactly is going on, or what he thinks is happening, his company, Ampal-American Israel Corporation sends repeated notices to the TASE, quoting EMG as saying that natural gas deliveries will resume within days.
Maimon presumably knows who EMG’s largest shareholder Hussein Salem is, whom his associates are, and exactly how deals are contracted in Egypt. Nonetheless, Ampal’s notices to the TASE, especially the latest one, asking for help from foreign governments, indicate that the EMG story is greater than Maimon and his partners. They move aside as if EMG is not a company that signed contracts with Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) and Israel Corporation.
Now, according to Maimon and his partners, the deal should be solved by a higher power, by government leaders. Maimon’s private company Merhav MNF Ltd. has asked the Israeli and Thai government (Thai energy giant PTT Public Co. Ltd. owns 25% of EMG), and the US president to ask the Egyptian interim government to resume the supply of gas.
In effect, Maimon is saying, “Who am I? I am only a small cog in EMG, which is supposed to make money from the supply of gas to Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama should get the headaches.”
It will be interesting to imagine what would have happened had a purely Israeli company with an Israeli controlling shareholder had sent such muddled notices to the TASE. We would have torn the company to shreds, but we are forgiving toward Ampal and Maimon. Over the years, the gas delivery agreement with Egypt has been considered as a strategic asset to the peace treaty, as an answer to the ostensible threat of a monopoly by Yitzhak Tshuva and a way of pressuring him on gas prices from Delek Group Ltd’s gas fields. The price Israel pays for Egyptian gas is cheaper by every measure, which may explain EMG’s sweeping tax exemptions until recently in both Israel and Egypt.