JERUSALEM (Aug. 4)
Israel is investigating the possibilities of retaliation against the British oil companies for their decision to withdraw from sales activities in the Jewish State, it was reported today in political circles.
These sources expressed the view that the Israel Government could legally take over ownership of the Haifa refinery plants if the Shell company and the British Petroleum company ceased supplying oil to the Israel market without first obtaining an acceptable successor firm. The refinery is owned by the two British oil companies.
Resentment here against the British withdrawal decision is based not on economic grounds, it was reported, but rather on the damage the action may cause politically to Israel. Under present world market conditions, according to Israeli experts, there would be no trouble in replacement of the 750, 000 tons, half of Israel’s total annual petroleum needs, now supplied by the British firms. The effect of the withdrawal in stimulating the Arab anti-Israel boycott and general pan-Arab intransigence, however, would be a serious blow at efforts for Middle East pacification, they said.
The withdrawal, they pointed out, inevitably would be interpreted by Arab extremists as Britain’s surrender to the Arab League boycott. Israeli officials reject London’s claim that the British Government bears no responsibility for the withdrawal decision. of the oil companies. This claim was made by the British Government last week in answering questions posed in the House of Commons by various members of Parliament.