IPS reports: 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.