MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 5, 2013

Lawmakers visit Israel to promote Oklahoma

Hulbert says trip also supports Israel, fight on terrorism

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Opportunities abound in Israel for Oklahoma oil and gas companies that have the capacity of helping the country develop its newly discovered natural resources, State Rep. Arthur Hulbert said.

The Fort Gibson Republican recently returned from Israel, where he and 13 other Oklahoma lawmakers met with dignitaries and other leaders. Hulbert said the purpose of the trip was threefold: To demonstrate Oklahoma’s continued support of a sovereign Israel, promote business and economic relationships, and align interests in the fight against terrorism.

“I definitely feel this (trip) is a good thing for Oklahoma, especially if we are able to facilitate our economic and business relationships,” Hulbert said, noting “no state or government funds were used” to finance the trip. “The larger oil companies reportedly do not want to assist Israel due to their ties with other Arab oil-producing companies in the Middle East, (but) Oklahoma has mid-size companies that can help with oil and gas extraction.”

Hulbert said the discovery of natural gas and oil in Israel runs counter to a long-standing joke in Israel about its historic origins. The Israelis, Hulbert said, joke that Moses wandered the desert 40 years in search of the only place in the Middle East without oil and gas.

Geological discoveries reported during the past five years have proven that notion false. The Middle East’s third-largest economy could benefit further from discoveries that could make Israel an exporter of natural gas, and the recent discovery of vast oil reserves could further its energy boom.

Hulbert said since his return, he has visited with House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, about finding ways to foster business relationships between Oklahoma energy companies and the Israelis.

“That is a big discovery for them,” Hulbert said about Israel’s newfound natural resources. “We are working to find out which (Oklahoma) companies would be the best match to meet Israel’s needs and trying to facilitate those relationships.”

State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, sponsored a bipartisan resolution of support for Israel and the 65th anniversary of its founding during this year’s legislative session. Wesselhoft said opportunities in Israel also exist for high-tech companies located in Oklahoma.

“There are about six areas in the world that are at the center of high-tech startups, and Israel is one of those areas,” Wesselhoft said. “If we can foster relationships, it would be beneficial to many companies here.”

Hulbert said Israeli government leaders recognized Oklahoma as the third largest supporter of the Middle East country, trailing only New York and California. While the nature of that support wasn’t clear, Hulbert and Wesselhoft said they believe it stems from the Judeo-Christian ties and legislative resolutions that recognize Israel’s “legal, historical, moral and God-given right of self-governance and self-defense upon the entirety of its own lands.”

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.