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Longread: The Links Between Jared Kushner, Likud, Rupert Murdoch and Genie Energy’s Claims on the Golan Heights’ Oil

Michael East, Red Revolution

The state of Israel is entirely dependent on the importation of its oil, with 99% of its entire supply coming from foreign sources and the country going through 247,00 barrels per day. The majority of this oil is supplied by Russia and the former Soviet republics, with oil independence being a long-term goal of the Israeli regime.

It was in the early 1990s that Israel first granted shaft-sinking permits in the occupied Golan Heights, granting those rights to the Israel National Oil Company (INOC) in contravention of international law. The INOC estimated that there was the potential of two million barrels in the Golan Heights to a value of $24m. These permits were subsequently suspended during the Rabin years during peace efforts beteen Israel and Syria.

Yitzhak Rabin in 1986 | Sgt. Robert G. Clambus

After the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and the subsequent ascension of Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, Netanyahu reversed the policy toward drilling efforts and granted the INOC permission to proceed with drilling. The move by Netanyahu increased tensions with Syria and was personally approved without consulting the Israeli military.

By 1997 the Netanyahu administration allowed a process of privatization for the INOC, a process that was overseen by Tzipi Livni, then the Director of the Government Companies Authority (GCA). Livni would go on to represent Likud in the Knesset between 1999 and 2005, holding the posts of Minister of Regional Cooperation, Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Immigrant Absorption while with the party.

President George W. Bush and Tzipi Livni, 2006 | Eric Draper

Livni would be accused of war crimes during and after her time as Israeli Foreign Minister for her role during Operation Cast Lead, the operation in Gaza between December 2008 and January 2009 that killed over 1,400 Palestinians.

“Israel is not a country upon which you fire missiles and it does not respond. It is a country that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild – and this is a good thing.”

Tzipi Livni

Despite applying for a two-year extension to the drilling rights in the Golan, the permits were returned to the state and it wasn’t until 2012 that there was another effective move to once again to undertake exploratory drilling in the territory. Ignoring the risk of Syrian outrage, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau secretly approved exploratory drilling for petroleum and natural gas in the Golan Heights, declaring the Golan open to oil and gas exploration and future production. 

“His view is that the State of Israel must utilize all options for oil exploration across the country in order to break free from dependence on Arab oil.”

Source close to Uzi Landau, speaking to Yedioth Ahronoth

In February of 2013, Israel’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources awarded a drilling license that covered half of the occupied territory from the latitude of Katzrin in the north to Tzemach in the south. The awarding of the new license followed geological tests which suggested that there was a large potential oil discovery in the southern Golan Heights. The license was awarded to the Israeli subsidiary of the New Jersey-based Genie Energy Ltd, a company spun off the IDT Corporation, also based in New Jersey. The Israeli arm of Genie Energy, Afek Oil and Gas, was involved in developing oil shale fields in central Israel and headed by the controversial Effi Eitam, a former member of the Knesset between 2003 and 2009.

Effi Eitam was drafted into the IDF in 1971, fighting against Syria in the Golan Heights during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Following his retirement from the military he entered politics and joined the National Religious Party. The NRP represented the religious Zionist movement in Israel and in its later years after Eitam assumed the leadership, was said to have drifted to the right, becoming known for representing settler issues. Eitam would later lead a breakaway faction from the NRP, the right to far-right Ahi, the faction merging with Likud in 2009. The merger allowed Ahi to pass their election financing to Likud.

“We’ll have to expel the overwhelming majority of West Bank Arabs from here and remove Israeli Arabs from political system… We have raised a fifth column, a group of traitors”

Effi Eitam, 2006

Effi Eitam is known for his virulent hatred of the Arab people, referring to Israeli Arabs as a “cancer” and in 2004 referring to Palestinians as “dark forces”, saying: “We will have to kill them all… I don’t mean all the Palestinians, but the ones with evil in their heads.” He has advocated the expulsion of Arabs both from politics and Palestine, stating in March 2008 of Israeli Arab members of the Knesset: “One day, we will expel you to Gaza from this house and from the national home of the Jewish people.”

“Expel most of the Judea and Samaria Arabs from here. We cannot be with all these Arabs, and we cannot give up the land.”

Effi Eitam, 2006

Despite these statements, across 2009 and 2010, he visited a series of universities in the United States as Benjamin Netanyahu’s “Special Emissary” to the “Caravan for Democracy” program of the Jewish National Fund. The JNF charter specifies reclamation of land for the Jewish people as its primary purpose.

The likelihood that the background of Effi Eitam is unknown to Genie Energy is extremely unlikely, but given the names involved in the parent company, it should come as little surprise that his background and statements are of little ongoing concern, particularly while he is considered close to Benjamin Netanyahu.

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during their joint press conference, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. | Leslie N. Emory, The White House

Genie Energy’s founder and CEO until 2017 was Howard Jonas, a donor to both Netanyahu’s primary campaigns and the Republican Party in the past, alongside being a supporter of Likud. Genie’s current CEO is Michael Stein, while the current strategic advisory board includes names such as Dick Cheney, Rupert Murdoch, Jacob Rothschild, former CIA director and Project For The New American Century member James Woolsey, former head of the United States treasury Larry Summers and former United States Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.

“[Genie Energy has the potential to] spur a global, geopolitical paradigm shift [by moving a major portion of new oil production to] America, Israel and other Western-oriented democracies.”

Rupert Murdoch, Press Release quoted by Forbes

The oil situation in the Golan Heights changed in 2015 when the potential for oil on the territory was reevaluated and confirmed to be potentially billions of barrels rather than the millions previously thought. The oil, which could provide the Israeli regime with all its oil needs for years to come, is said to be located in the south of the Golan Heights with only Syrian legal jurisdictional over the territory being the Israeli obstacle to drilling.

“We are talking about significant quantities… a layer 350 meters thick… ten times larger than the average oil find worldwide.”

Yuval Bartok, Afek Oil and Gas’ chief geologist

In September of 2017, the then United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke met with Effi Eitam, raising concerns that the Trump administration was sanctioning the illegal plundering of the Golan Heights oil and gas by Israel. While Eitam denied that the issue of oil drilling was raised, he refused to disclose what the meeting concerned, describing it as “personal”.

“You have someone who is engaged in action that is illegal and by meeting with [Effi Eitam] it seems to be giving some credibility to what they’re doing”

John Quigley, international law professor at Ohio State University

The links between the Trump administration and Genie Energy certainly don’t begin and end with Ryan Zinke however, with Jared Kushner’s family friend Ira Greenstein being the former chairman of the IDT Corporation, the company out of which Genie Energy was created and Jason Greenblatt, Special Representative for International Negotiations, being an investor.

It was during the Presidential transition period that Ira Greenstein was a member of the Presidential transition team alongside Kushner. Greenstein was acting President of Genie Energy at the time. During the presidential transition period, Kushner, Greenstein and Anthony Scaramucci wielded considerable power over the incoming administration.

“They’re conducting 30- to 60-minute interviews of applicants for jobs including senior national security and intelligence positions, ambassadors, undersecretaries and top-ranking officials in nearly every federal agency. They conduct interviews by phone or in person and rank finalists 1 through 5. The final hiring is done by senior Trump aides following background checks.

Times Union

The decision to put the acting President of Genie Energy, an energy firm with interest in the recently discovered billions of barrels of Syrian oil, in a position to be making decisions on “senior national security and intelligence positions, ambassadors, undersecretaries and top-ranking officials” is not only staggering, but speaks only of a huge conflict of interest and potential malfeasance.

Jason Greenblatt, who was was the executive vice president and chief legal officer to Donald Trump and The Trump Organization, and his advisor on Israel was appointed to the position of Special Representative for International Negotiations by Trump in January of 2017. Greenblatt has investments in Genie Energy. Was his appointment at the suggestion of Kushner, Greenstein and Scaramucci? Greenblatt would be a key figure in the formulation of the White House Middle East peace plan alongside David Friedman, Nikki Haley and Jared Kushner.

Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to President Donald J. Trump | DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

In February of 2017, Benjamin Netanyahu met with Trump and requested that the United States recognise Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. Netanyahu would say that Trump had not been “surprised by my request.” A few weeks later the United States began their bombing campaign against Syria. In a briefing sent to British Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Britain’s ambassador to Washington Sir Kim Darroch said that Ivanka Trump, wife of Jared Kushner, was influential in securing the the bombing campaign.

This month the Trump regime acquiesced to Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2017 request and recognised Israel’s illegal sovereignty over the Golan Heights. World leaders condemned the move by the American President and were quick to distance themselves from what was seen as a surprising move. The likes of Iran, Turkey, Lebanon and Russia were joined by traditional allies of the United States such as the United Kingdom and European Union in rejecting the new Trump position.

The Golan Heights

Any drilling of oil in the Golan Heights is a crime against international law, with Israel already exploiting the Golan Heights for one-third of its entire water supply.

“The rule under which force may not be used to lead to or cause a transfer or change of sovereignty constitutes one of the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law. An expression of this fundamental principle is also found in Section 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which establishes, inter alia, the application of the convention to the population of an occupied territory, even if it has been annexed by the occupying force.”

Suhad Bishara & Karama Abu Saleh – Adalah, Al-Marsad

Under The Hague Convention and international law, occupying forces are permitted to use public assets that it manages, including the yield, but only so far as to fulfil its obligations under the law of occupation. The occupying power is not allowed to destroy assets, transfer their ownership to others or deplete them. Any effort to exploit a finite resource such as the oil reserves in the Golan Heights would be in contradiction of these laws. However, given the indifference that Israel and the United States has shown toward international law, this is not expected to be seen as an obstacle to the exploitation of Syria oil by the Netanyahu regime.

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