Israeli energy companies Ginko and Delek Energy Systems on Tuesday won a decision by Israel's Nature and Parks Authority to drill for oil in a remote corner of a nature reserve in the Judean wilderness.
Representatives for the companies said they believe the proposed drill site contains some 6.5 million barrels of oil. While that is less than the amount of oil Israel uses in a month, its market value is still a staggering $700 million.
The decision was fiercely opposed by environmentalists, including the Nature and Parks Authority's own science committee, who fear the drilling will irrevocably damage the area's delicate ecosystem.
The companies said that they are aware of the potential downsides and will do everything possible to minimize damage to the environment, but successfully argued that Israel cannot pass up opportunities to so significantly bolster its economy and reduce dependency on foreign energy sources.
Israeli and foreign oil exploration companies have been searching for oil in Israel for decades. It is widely believed that a significant amount of oil lies somewhere under the Dead Sea, but experts say it is difficult and costly to find it due to the regular tectonic shifts in the area.