Jim Lobe reports at InterPress on another provocation from Israel, in league with American rightwingers. One of the investors in this drilling project, Michael Steinhardt, has denied that there is an occupation, denied there is a Palestinian people. And the company is headed by Effi Eitam, a hawkish former Israeli Cabinet minister. Lobe:
In a potential new source of contention between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel has reportedly granted a U.S. energy firm with heavyweight political connections to explore for oil and gas in the occupied Golan Heights.
The company is a local subsidiary of New Jersey-based Genie Energy Ltd. The Strategic Advisory Board of another subsidiary, Genie Oil and Gas, includes former Vice President Dick Cheney, media magnate Rupert Murdoch, and former Republican Rep. Jim Courter.
It also includes several prominent investment managers, such as Jacob Rothschild, chairman of the J. Rothschild group, and Michael Steinhardt, a major contributor to Jewish and Zionist causes, notably Birthright Israel, a multi-million-dollar programme to bring young Diaspora Jews to Israel….
The granting of the licence by Israel’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources, which was initially reported by Dow Jones Thursday, comes amidst continuing civil war in Syria, which has demanded the return of the Heights since Israel took them in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
It also comes a month before Obama is scheduled to make his first visit to Israel as president.
Some analysts here compared the move to previous announcements by the Netanyahu government of new settlement construction on the West Bank or East Jerusalem — either on the eve of or during meetings with top U.S. officials – that have clearly contributed to thinly veiled tensions that exist between the two leaders.
The administration remained tight-lipped about the move Friday, confining itself only to issuing a terse statement by the State Department acknowledging the press reports about the licence.
“We intend to discuss this issue with the Israeli Government,” it said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this is part of Netanyahu’s plan to put additional pressure on the U.S., as he’s done with President Obama in the past,” Charles Ebinger, an energy and Middle expert at the Brookings Institutions, told IPS. “He keeps changing the facts on the ground through expansion of settlements and now this on the Golan.
More on Eitam: He has called Arabs in Israel and the West Bank a ticking time bomb and anticipated a regional war in which Israel is compelled to expel Palestinians to the east side of the Jordan River. He also doesn’t believe in an occupation. Disturbing.