The parent company of the firm which owns the Cambo oil field is on a United Nations blacklist for doing business in Israeli-occupied West Bank settlements, The Ferret can reveal.
Ithaca Energy last week acquired Siccar Point Energy in a £1.1 billion deal. In doing so, it inherited a controlling 70 per cent stake in Cambo, an oil field off the west coast of Shetland which was the target of fierce opposition from environmental groups in 2021.
Ithaca is the UK arm of Delek Group, one of Israel’s biggest energy companies. Delek was among 112 companies named in a 2020 UN list of businesses whose activities in the West Bank “raised particular human rights concerns”.
Human rights campaigners alleged that by doing business in Israeli settlements — which are considered illegal under international law — Delek is “contributing to systemic violations against Palestinians”. Delek did not reply to our requests for a comment.
The think tank, Common Wealth, has also drawn links between Cambo’s new owners and West Bank settlements. They pointed out that Ithaca Energy has been operating in the North Sea for years and was acquired by Delek in 2017.
Ithaca declined to comment on Delek’s links to the Israeli West Bank settlements but said Cambo would play an important role in securing the UK’s energy security for “the next quarter of a decade”.
The West Bank — a piece of land located on the west bank of the River Jordan near Jerusalem — has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war but its occupation has long been opposed by the majority Palestinian population.
Conflict between the Israeli settler and Palestinian populations have resulted in alleged human rights abuses stretching back decades.
According to Amnesty International, the Israeli military killed 75 and injured 14,679 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank in 2021. There were also 118 attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians in the region last year.
Two Israeli civilians were killed in attacks by Palestinian terrorist organisations in the West Bank in 2021, as reported by Israel’s Defence Forces.
Amnesty produced a report in February 2021 accusing Israel of apartheid against Palestinians by “enforcing a system of oppression and domination” against them. But the Israeli government denied the claim, arguing it was “divorced from reality”.
The UN Human Rights Council produced the list of businesses following a fact-finding mission to “investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people”.
Companies were included in the list if they were participating in one of ten “listed activities” which “raised particular concerns” for members of the mission.
Delek was named because the UN determined it was involved in two of these activities; the provision of services and utilities to support the maintenance of Israeli settlements, and the use of natural resources for business purposes.
Peter Frankental, economic affairs director at Amnesty International UK, called on Ithaca and Delek to “comply with their international responsibilities and stop doing business with Israel’s illegal settlements”.
Frankental said: “In light of the UN’s evidence linking Cambo’s new owner to Israel’s illegal settlements, there are serious questions to be answered.
“Settling civilians in occupied territories violates international law. Businesses which profit in the context of this illegal situation are contributing to systemic violations against Palestinians.”
It said this was due to an “unacceptable risk” that the firms were “contributing to the abuse of human rights in situations of war and conflict through their links with Israeli settlements”.
Ithaca declined to comment on Delek’s inclusion on the UN list of companies conducting listed activities in the West Bank.
Israel’s Embassy in London was also asked to comment.
The Israeli Government rejects the widely held view that settlements in the West Bank are illegal. It says that the area is “best regarded as territory over which there are competing claims which should be resolved in peace process negotiations”.
Israel considers the West Bank to be crucial to its self-defence and claims religious and historical rights to the area, as the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people.
Firm promises to develop Cambo
The previous owner, Siccar Point Energy, announced in December that it was putting its plans to develop Cambo on hold after its project partner Shell – which still owns a 30 per cent stake in the field – pulled out. Shell said that the economic case for the project was “not strong enough”.
The first phase of extraction at the project is expected to produce an initial 170 million barrels over a 25 year period. The drilling and burning of the oil produced from this first phase could produce 72 million tonnes of climate pollution.
Ithaca’s chief executive, Alan Bruce, argued that the development of Cambo and Rosebank was a “huge opportunity” both in terms of the creation of jobs and “to help secure the UK’s energy future for at least another quarter of a century”.
The company has said that it wants to understand environmentalists’ views on Cambo and would look to limit the emissions from the production of oil from the field
Bruce said: “The acquisition doubles our recoverable resources and means that we now have interests in a significant portion of the largest UK Continental Shelf fields.
“This includes interests in two of the UK’s most strategically important and near-term developments which will enable us to play an increasing role in securing domestic energy supply for the UK.”
She said: “Cambo’s new owners are making a billion pound gamble that they can open this huge new field and don’t care that the pollution released from the project’s first phase alone would be equivalent to running 18 coal power stations for a year.
“Cambo will do nothing for soaring energy bills and only further risks our collective safety by worsening climate change.”
Photo Credit: iStock/rrodrickbeiler
This story was amended at 12:08 on the 16th of April 2022 to note that the think tank, Common Wealth, has also noted the links between Delek and West Bank settlements.