LONDON (Feb. 2)
Metal Box, the international packaging group with a 500 million Sterling annual turnover, confirmed yesterday that it may pull out of a long-standing investment in Israel after Arab threats to several of its major customers.
Although the company only admitted that it was “examining” the question, it is believed that the company has virtually decided to wind up its 27 percent stake in the Israel Can Company, which began more than a quarter of a century ago, The news is bound to lead to renewed demands here that the government introduce legislation against the Arab boycott like that promised by the Carter Administration in the United States.
Arab countries, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, have warned customers of Metal Box that they cannot sell their products in the Arab world if they continue to use Metal Box packaging. The products involved are some of the world’s most famous brands of canned fish, meat, fruit, vegetables and drinks.
CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF TERTIARY BOYCOTT
Amos Lavee, Economic Minister at the Israel Embassy, said the Metal Box case was a classic example of the “tertiary boycott” in which British companies take action against other British companies out of fear of losing lucrative Arab trade.
He believed that British companies succumbed to such pressures more readily than in some other countries “because of a lack of national confidence.” He said he knew of other major companies which were contemplating ending their investment in Israel because of the Arab boycott.
The effects of the boycott are reflected in declining British exports to Israel. Last year they rose by only five percent–from 238 million Sterling to 249 million Sterling. Israel exports to Britain, on the other hand, jumped by more than 40 percent–from 91 million Sterling to 128 million Sterling.