Israel gives OK for oil drilling in Golan Heights

GOLAN HEIGHTS - NOVEMBER 13: (ISRAEL OUT) An Israeli cattle herder watches his herd on November 13, 2012 near Alonei Habashan in the Golan Heights. Tension remains high in the disputed Golan Heights after Israeli Defence Forces retaliated after mortar shells were fired into Israeli territory from Syria. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
Uriel Sinai

JERUSALEM Israel says it has given the go-ahead for a gas exploration project in the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau it captured from Syria in the 1967 war.

Israel's Energy and Water Resources Ministry said Wednesday it has issued a permit for the American-Israeli company Genie Energy to drill for oil on the plateau. The company is headed by Effi Eitam, a hawkish former Israeli Cabinet minister.

Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 but the world still considers it occupied territory.

Oil permits for the area were stopped 20 years ago during Israel-Syria talks, which were to include a potential return of the Golan. The talks never produced a peace deal.

The drilling permit raises concerns it could draw international condemnation, especially ahead of President Barack Obama's visit to Israel.