|March 20, 2013
The schedule for President Barack Obama's first visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories next week has just been released and it is no surprise that the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is not on his travel agenda.
And yet Israel put it on the international agenda less than a month ago with its award of a licence to a US energy firm to explore for oil in the Golan Heights. Oil drilling by the New Jersey-based Genie Energy Ltd in the occupied Golan Heights could well result in a lawsuit claiming that Israel is engaged in an illegal act of pillage as defined in the Hague Convention. Perhaps Israel is now so used to living off the fat of other people's land - Palestinian and Syrian soil and water, among other resources - it has seemingly thrown caution to the wind.
The award puts the US on the spot. If the Obama administration tries to stop Genie from going ahead with the contract, it invites the wrath of myriad pro-Israel groups and their neocon allies, whose strength was most recently on display in the battle to confirm Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.
And if the administration ignores the oil deal, it leaves US corporations exposed to potential lawsuits for profiteering from Israel's violations of human rights and international law.
An additional worry for the Obama administration is the cast of characters involved in Genie Energy. The company is headed by former Israeli minister of infrastructure Effie Eitam, who lives in one of the illegal settlements on the Golan Heights, and includes former vice president Dick Cheney as an adviser and Rupert Murdoch as a shareholder.