The fall in oil prices over the last several months carries significance far beyond the low prices American commuters are paying at the pump. Low oil prices serve Western strategic interests by starving some of the most troublesome actors in the world of their major source of revenue - countries such as Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism, and Russia, which attacks its neighbors and uses its energy might to blackmail Europe.
One cause of the drop in oil prices is the technological advances that have enabled Western countries such as the United States and Canada to dramatically increase their domestic oil production. Now the global oil supply appears set to get a boost from a new and improbable player in the oil business: Israel.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir famously lamented that Moses wandered the desert for 40 years before coming to the only place in the Middle East that doesn't have oil. Today, Israel imports 99 percent of the oil needed to satisfy domestic demand. But depending on the results of drilling tests now underway on the Golan Heights, this situation - which leaves Israel vulnerable to supply interruption - may soon change, and perhaps dramatically.
U.S. company Genie Energy has received permits to drill 10 test wells in the Golan Heights. The company's surveys suggest that some parts of Golan may contain enough oil to fill billions of barrels - enough to satisfy Israel's domestic oil needs and even become an oil exporter.
Oil discoveries would complement Israel's already-discovered natural gas fields to make Israel truly energy-independent. But an oil discovery would also strengthen the U.S.-brokered peace treaties between Israel and neighbors Jordan and Egypt, which, like Israel in the past, are poor in natural resources. Amman and Cairo maintain their peace treaties with Israel despite enormous domestic opposition. Energy partnerships are perhaps the single best way to foster closer relations - promoting regional stability and furthering U.S. interests in the region.
Last year, Israel signed a memorandum of understanding with Jordan under which it will supply $15 billion in natural gas over 15 years - making it Jordan's largest energy supplier. Similar arrangements could be made for Israeli oil. In addition to being a peace partner, the pro-West kingdom is Washington's closest Arab ally, receiving nearly $1 billion in U.S. assistance in 2013. In recent years, however, pressure from Syrian refugees and from spikes in energy costs - largely due to repeated attacks on the Egyptian natural gas pipeline - have fueled unsustainable budget deficits, threatening the stability of the kingdom. An Israel-Jordan oil deal would ease the pressure and promote a major U.S. interest in the Middle East: keeping Jordan in the U.S. orbit.
Some may complain that Israel should not extract natural resources from a territory whose legal standing is contested - the Syrian regime, the United Nations, and many European countries stress their view that the Golan Heights is occupied territory.
But given the reality of Syria today - several years into a brutal war that has left major cities destroyed, 200,000 people dead, the country's territory controlled by different militias, and the Assad regime more dependent than ever on Iran and Hezbollah - the prospect of peace with Israel is so distant that abstaining from oil extraction seems to serve little purpose. This is especially clear when considering the benefits of extraction to countries that are not aligned with Iran and are not slaughtering their own citizens. The wisdom of keeping out of Golan also rests on the assumption that Syria will emerge from years of devastating fighting with the same borders and national character that it had before - a dubious proposition.