Jewish oilman sues Israel for thwarting drilling bid

Jack Grynberg says Israel should be begging him to explore; government says he doesn’t meet criteria.

oil 88 (photo credit: )
oil 88
(photo credit: )
A Polish-born ex-Irgun volunteer who went on to become a multimillionaire oilman is suing the Israeli government for refusing him a license to drill offshore for what he claims could be billions of dollars worth of natural gas. Colorado-based Jewish businessman and philanthropist Jack Grynberg petitioned the High Court of Justice earlier this year requiring the government to explain why it is denying him a license for deep water exploration in an area off the coast en route to Cyprus. He has now been told that a panel of justices will hear the case next year. Grynberg, who detailed a highly successful track record of exploration around the world, told The Jerusalem Post he “wouldn’t be surprised” if there were 2 trillion to 3 trillion cubic feet of gas in the area he has identified for exploration, with a total value at today’s prices of some $39 billion. “The government of Israel should be begging me to come and drill,” said Grynberg, noting that royalty and income tax payments could make the project immensely lucrative for Israel. It would also offer a potential 20-year source of 500 million cubic feet per day of an environmentally superior alternative fuel to meet the country’s needs, he said. In a preliminary legal submission, the National Infrastructure Ministry has explained that the area earmarked by Grynberg has now been closed to exploration. In any case, it added, his company lacks the necessary experience in deep water exploration and would have had to apply in conjunction with a more experienced partner. Grynberg, in response, noted that the French government has granted him a license to operate in far deeper water at 2,000 meters off Martinique. He claims that he is being blocked by the Israeli government because he, rather than its officials, recognized the potential of an unexplored area of Israeli territorial water. It appears that the court has decided to hear the case, in good part, because of concerns over the behind-closed-doors ministry procedures by which decisions are taken on such fateful issues as the closing off of Israeli waters to exploration. Pursuing his bid, Grynberg said he had also spoken with Dov Weisglass, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and written to Sharon, to no avail. In his letter to Sharon, he noted that he discovered the biggest oil field off Kazakhstan and a second oil and gas field there, and that his interest in those two fields left him “more than able to explore, develop and produce any natural gas in the open deep water area of Israel.” In the same letter, in which he cited his millions of dollars in cumulative donations to the UJA and other Jewish and Israeli causes, he named a government official who he claimed had blocked his application “because I showed his incompetence in that he never realized this area belonged to Israel.” A National Infrastructure Ministry legal adviser, to whom this letter was passed, responded in writing that since Grynberg was engaged in litigation against the Israeli government, his complaints would be addressed in the course of that litigation.