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Will Israel allow the Palestinian Authority to drill for oil?

March 15, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Economists and politicians have agreed that the occupation does not need to allow the Palestinian Authority (PA) to drill for oil in the West Bank at a time when sovereignty over resources is among the final status issues that still have not been resolved by negotiations.

The Council of Ministers in the West Bank has decided to work towards attracting international oil companies to look for oil and natural gas in a 400 kilometre piece of land located in the western part of the West bank, along the Apartheid Wall, in an attempt to gain new economic resources.

Observers believe that the prevention of the Palestinians from looking for new resources relates to Israel’s greedy control over the land and its refusal to allow the empowerment of the Palestinian people and authorities that puts them in a situation where they do not need to depend on the occupation.

Logistic and political risks

Economic expert Nasr Abdel Kareem told the Safa News Agency that “the issue has many aspects, the first of which is regarding the possibility of international oil companies not wanting to take the risk of drilling in Palestine after the failure of the British company to drill for oil and natural gas in the 1990’s and the large financial losses resulting from this.”

He also points out that the main issue in this regard is related to the political risks posed on the ground in the West Bank due to the occupation’s sovereignty and control of the land and Israel’s ongoing policy of depriving the Palestinians of their economic resources.

The expert also fears that the PA has come to the playing field during the stoppage time, in reference to the occupation’s oil drilling on all of its shores, noting that it even violated Lebanon’s naval sovereignty in the past while drilling for oil and gas, so it would definitely drill in the West Bank, which is under its sovereignty.

Furthermore, Abdel Kareem does not rule out the possibility of the occupation having resorted in the past to drilling for oil in areas nominated by the Authority, due to the fact that they lay on the borders between the West Bank and Israel.

Political requirements

On his part, economic expert Tarek Al-Haj told the Safa News Agency that no international company could work in the West Bank without the approval of the occupation due to the fact that the company would need to send funds and bring in their equipment , which must pass through the occupation and they must coordinate with them directly.

He also believes that the occupation does not want to give the Palestinians any of their political and economic rights in order for them to make use of the land as well as its resources. This reinforces the reasons behind the lack of any tangible results to the Authority’s decision.

However, if Israel allows drilling work, Al-Haj believes that issue would be a trap for the Authority to bear all the expenses of the drilling carried out by the companies before the occupation decides to confiscate these resources, if any, and take control of them, thus seizing any right of the Palestinians to the resources.

Sovereignty issue

In his conversation with the Safa News Agency, political analyst Asaad Al-Awiwi poses the question, “Does the occupation allow the Palestinians access to the water in the West Bank, let alone drilling for resources?” He also added that the occupation has the upper hand in this regard and the issue is a political and sovereign matter first and foremost.

He said: “The Palestinians have no sovereignty and everything regarding sovereignty must go through the occupation state. These issues remained unresolved in the agreements and are considered final status issues, including the borders and refugees, as they are sensitive issues for the occupation.”

As for the timing of the PA’s announcement of this decision, Al-Awiwi believes that it is a rebellious and challenging measure taken by the Authority against the occupation government, which rejects the settlement plan set by US Secretary of State John Kerry, and an attempt by the PA to impose unilateral sovereignty, “but this is useless, as the occupation dedicates all its power to its plan to tighten its control over the Palestinians and their resources”.

Source: Palestinian Press Agency, 13 March, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.