In what is certain to be an enormously controversial decision, the Israeli government has issued a permit to the Genie Energy company to begin drilling for oil in the occupied Golan Heights, despite it still be internationally recognized as part of Syria.
Genie Energy International’s President is retired Israeli General Effi Eitam, a former Likud Housing Minister and MP who has repeatedly called for Israel to “cleanse” the occupied territories of all Arabs, and predicting in a New Yorker interview that eventually “we will have to kill them all.”
Before his successful political career Eitam was investigated for war crimes in the Gaza Strip, after men under his command testified he ordered them to “break the bones” of Palestinian civilians. He was reprimanded after one of the beaten men died.
Genie is well politically connected beyond Eitam, with a special Strategic Advisory Board that includes former Vice President Dick Cheney, News Corporation Head Rupert Murdoch, and several other high profile figures.
Israel “annexed” the Golan Heights in 1981, 14 years after the occupation began, but that is not recognized by any other nation. Israel had refused to grant any oil permits for 20 years, as negotiations were ongoing which were liable to return Golan to Syria as part of a peace deal.
Genie’s experts say they believe a large amount of oil is available under the heights, and that it is in “relatively tight formations.” Energy Minister Uzi Landau allowed the first bids for Golan permits last year, and this gives Genie an “exclusive” license for nearly 400 square kilometers of Syrian territory.
The decision to allow drilling seems certain to start an international incident since it will have major ramifications on any future peace settlement between Israel and Syria.