French energy giant Total has come under sharp rebuke from Israel over the company's investment stance, amid growing concerns in Tel Aviv that the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is being mainstreamed among its traditional allies.
Total – which is one of seven "Supermajor" oil companies in the world – backed off from investing in Israel, for reasons it described as "complex". Total's chief executive, Patrick Pouyanné, told the Financial Times (FT) that it was too complex to invest in Israel, despite the country's growing role as a gas producer.
Explaining the firm's decision, Pouyanné added that "we [Total] like complex situations [ . . . ] up to a certain point," but suggested that stakes in Israel were not big enough to accept the risks involved in investing in the Zionist state, which is fighting what seems to be a losing battle against accusations that the country has become an apartheid state.
Total's decision was denounced as an attempt to "boycott" Israel and prompted outrage. The FT reported that Israel's energy minister, Yuval Steinitz – who was visiting London to drum up interest in the country's next gas licensing round and discuss energy co-operation – said companies such as Total that refused to invest in Israel were living in "past decades" and were in hock to the "tyranny and dictatorship" of Iran.
Steinitz criticised Total's investment stance, saying: "I reject it with two hands; I think this is a miserable view." "We will consider our reaction to this as it is totally unacceptable to boycott [Israel]," he added.
Steinitz attempted to discredit Total's position by insisting that major companies like Google and arms manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Boeing had invested in Israel and had not encountered any problems.
The FT said that Israel has struggled to attract energy majors to help develop its gas resources, in part because of the fragile politics of the Middle East.