The Israeli oil exploration company Givot Olam has reported the discovery of oil reserves estimated at up to 3.5 billion barrels of oil under its Meged 5 oilfield site. However, as Jonathan Cook reports, “Only one cloud looms on the horizon. It is unclear how much of this new-found oil wealth actually belongs to Israel. The well sits on the so-called Green Line, the armistice line of 1948 that formally separates Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories.”
Since Givot Olam’s announcement of additional reserves, Palestinian officials have declared that Israel’s relocation of its concrete and steel separation wall, under the guise of “security”, is in fact a ploy to assure that Givot Olam will have “unfettered access to the site.” Since 2011, when Givot Olam’s Meged 5 reserve began operation, it has generated a reported $40 million in oil revenues.
According to Al Jazeera, Ashraf Khatib, an official at the Palestine Authority’s negotiations support unit, claims that the Meged oil reserve is part of Israel’s “theft of Palestinian resources.” In October 2013, the World Bank issued a report indicating that, under current occupation, Israel is dramatically undermining the potential for an economically viable Palestinian state.
As the World Bank’s report indicated, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank—and especially the contested Area C—restricts Palestine’s access, not only to the newly discovered oil reserves, but also to other crucial natural resources, including land for agriculture and development, water aquifers, Dead Sea minerals, quarries, and archaeological and tourism sites. The World Bank report estimates that if Palestine was granted access to the contested terrain, it would generate revenues of approximately $3.4 billion—without taking into account the expected boom in oil revenues. At present, however, Israel prevents Palestinians from accessing key natural resources through “movement restrictions” or by classifying areas as “military zones.”
Jonathan Cook, “ Israel to Drill for oil in the West Bank”, Al Jazeera, November 2, 2013, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/11/israel-drill-oil-west-bank-201311114571416794.html.
“Palestinians Access to Area C Key to Economic Recovery and Sustainable Growth,” The World Bank, October 8, 2013, http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2013/10/07/palestinians-access-area-c-economic-recovery-sustainable-growth.
Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Department, Middle East and North Africa Region, “West Bank and Gaza: Area C and the Future of the Palestinian Economy,” The World Bank, October 2, 2013, http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2014/01/23/000442464_20140123122135/Rendered/PDF/AUS29220REPLAC0EVISION0January02014.pdf
Student Researcher: Kory Arnold (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Greg Gassman (Woodland Community College)