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Israel to Drill for Oil

Will Palestine see any of the benefits? /Image: israpundit.com
Will Palestine see any of the benefits? /Image: israpundit.com

It is unclear whether the oil belongs to Israel or Palestine

Article: Eman Bare – Contributor

Israel may soon be joining the league of oil-producing states, with recent findings of large oil reserves found off the country’s coast. Givot Olam, an Israeli-based oil company, announced that the oil wells discovered hold approximately 3.53 billion barrels of oil.

However, what is unclear at this point is exactly how much oil belongs to Israel, and not occupied Palestine. Currently, Israel has over 120 illegal settlements on Palestinian land. The oil well sits a few dozen meters inside the supposed Green Line that defines the legal borders of Israel, but this is yet to be confirmed.

When officials were asked as to where exactly the oil wells were located, responses given were vague and unclear. Israeli water and energy ministries have also declined to comment on the legality of the oil wells. Additionally, both Israel and Givot Olam have made access to the region under question near impossible. Steps have also been taken to ban any filming or photographing of the site by journalists, including Israeli media.

The justification given for the limited media access has been that supposed military operations are conducted in the area. However, Dror Etkes, an Israeli researcher who tracks Israeli activities in the West Bank, has stated that he was unaware of any militaristic activity ever taking place in the region.

According to Palestinian officials, the Israeli separation wall that divides the two states has been moved, making it even more unclear as to whether or not the wells are on Palestinian or Israeli territory. Although Israel claims this is due to security reasons, the move has also given oil company Givot Olam more access to the drilling region in question, and also giving the oil company more privacy.

At this point, it is entirely unclear how much oil lies underneath the State of Palestine, but it seems apparent that Israel is doing everything it can to prevent that information from becoming public knowledge.

As is stated in the Oslo Accord, Israel is required to coordinate exploration in shared territory with Palestinian Authorities, in addition to dividing benefits. However, Palestinians are skeptical at the likelihood of any sort of Israeli integrity on the issue.

“What rights? We have no rights in our homeland. It’s a struggle to come in and out of the country and even harder to move between cities to find jobs or food or anything. Israel does not want peace they want to kick us out and exterminate us from own country.” 

Ashraf Khatib, an official in the Palestinian negotiation unit stated in an interview with Al Jazeera, “ the problem for us is that the occupation is not just about land confiscation. Israel is also massively profiting from exploiting our resources. There is lots of money in it for Israel, which is why the occupation has been so prolonged.”

The World Bank believes that Israel is intentionally making key natural resources exploration impossible for Palestine, either by exploiting the resources for themselves, or by expanding their illegal occupation. Earlier this year, the World Bank stated that Israel was destroying any opportunity for the future Palestinian state to become economically viable, through illegal extraction of it’s resources.

The biggest question being asked is, what does this mean for peace talks?

This past summer, peace talks resumed after a long standstill, as the U.S. Secretary of State met with representatives from the two countries. In order for peace talks to resume, Palestinian officials requested an immediate halt on all illegal settlement expansions on Palestinian territories. Israel declined this request, and Kerry recommended this offer be left off the table, at least for now.

An agreement reached was a release of 100 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. The most recent release came on Oct. 23, when 26 prisoners were freed. Interestingly enough, only hours later, Israel also announced an expansion of its illegal settlements in East Jerusalem-territory that was requested by Palestine for its state.

The announcement of continued illegal settlements is in complete contradiction of any efforts to sustain long-lasting peace between the two countries, however native Palestinian, Dana Al-Zabet, is not surprised. When asked about Palestinian rights in the region, she stated, “What rights? We have no rights in our homeland. It’s a struggle to come in and out of the country and even harder to move between cities to find jobs or food or anything. Israel does not want peace; they want to kick us out and exterminate us from own country.”

Although Kerry has recommended stepping away from settlement talks during last summer’s peace talks, doing so is harmful to the security and economy of Palestine.

In reports by the World Bank, Palestine is losing $3.4 billion annually because of Israel’s illegal expansion in the West Bank. That figure does not take into account the recent discovery of oil fields in the region, of which Israel is the only country benefiting.

The Prime Minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, has stated that he is pursuing economic peace with Palestine, however actions suggest otherwise. Palestinian authorities believe that Israel’s policies are seeking economic-warfare against the nation. Dror Etkes states, “the reality is that Israel is enjoying the economic fruits of the occupation by exploiting resources that belong to the Palestinians.”

Past events have supported the notion that Israel is intentionally limiting Palestinian economic growth. There have been countless accusations of Israel Defense Forces destroying Palestinian olive farms at their peak harvest, burning farms and harassing innocent civilians. Olive exports are huge contributors to the Palestinian economy and make up an estimated total of 25 per cent of agricultural exports. Therefore, losses of these farms would have massive impacts on the Palestinian economy.

If Palestine were to be given control of land that they are legally entitled to, the country would be able to cut down on foreign aid and develop into a self-sufficient state. Unemployment rates have recently reached 23 per cent, and much of the country is affected by poverty and food insecurity.

Israel argues against Palestinians having the right to extract their natural resources, stating that growth in the Palestinian economy would be used to fund terrorism. However, with Israel being guilty of forcefully evicting Palestinians from their homes, building Israeli-only settlements on stolen Palestinian land and also being widely recognized by the international community as an apartheid state, it is questionable who is truly guilty of terrorist activity.

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