Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Britain to Export Oil to Israel, Rescinding 12-year Unofficial Ban

March 13, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A 12-year-old rule that excluded Israel from buying North Sea oil has finally been revised in what friends of Israel consider a reward for the restraint it showed under Iraqi missile attack.

Energy Secretary John Wakeham told the House of Commons that the guidelines which govern the destination of crude oil exports from the United Kingdom are to be withdrawn immediately, with the only remaining exception being South Africa.

Although the government has always denied there was a ban on British oil sales to Israel, that was the effect of the energy guidelines introduced in 1979 by Tony Benn, then secretary of state for energy.

The guidelines restricted North Sea oil sales to member states of the European Community, members of the International Energy Agency and “longstanding traditional customers outside these two groups.”

In practical terms, only Israel and South Africa were left out.

Neither the Foreign Office nor the Department of Energy would concede that the removal of the guidelines is anything more than a “tidying up” of rules that no longer apply.

It is believed, however, that the government agreed to a request from Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy when he visited Britain last month.

Supporters of Israel are delighted. According to Teddy Taylor, a Conservative member of Parliament who has long campaigned against the ban, the guidelines were “insulting to Israel and a pointless piece of nonsense.”

Recommended from JTA