lsrael says it has issued a permit for the American Israeli company Genie to drill oil in the Golan Heights, in a move likely to trigger international uproar as well as potential conflict between Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel over rights to the fields.
Genie Israel Oil and Gas Ltd. has been granted exclusive rights to drill about one-third of the Golan Heights total area, the Energy Ministry said, according to Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.
“Awarding a drilling license on the Golan could cause an international fracas, given the Golan’s status as occupied Syrian territory under international law,” Globes writes.
The company is headed by Effi Eitam, a former Israeli Cabinet minister. Shareholders include chairman Howard Jonas, Lord Jacob Rothschild, and Rupert Murdoch. Former US Vice President Dick Cheney is an advisor, Globes reported.
The Golan Heights is a flat basaltic highland. In the south – its height is 300 meters above sea level and in the north it reaches a height of 1,100 meters above sea level.
Israel seized the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981, in a move never recognised by the international community. Syria tried to return the Golan Heights during the 1973 Middle East war. The assault was thwarted and both countries signed an armistice in 1974 and a UN observer force has been in place on the ceasefire line since 1974.
Israel depends on imported oil for 99 percent of its needs, most of which is supplied by Russia and the former Soviet republics.
There are more than 30 Jewish settlements on the heights, with an estimated 20,000 settlers, according to BBC.