Behind the Headlines Common Market Countries Capitulate to Arab Oil Threats
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Behind the Headlines Common Market Countries Capitulate to Arab Oil Threats

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The nine Common Market countries gave in to Arab pressure and threats of a generalized oil blackmail by openly taking a clear pro-Arab stand. The nine, meeting Tuesday in Brussels, adopted a draft resolution calling on Israel to end its occupation of all territories it has held since the 1967 war. The resolution, which will be reconsidered for final approval on Dec. 15 when the nine chiefs of state or government meet in Copenhagen, also refers to the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinians and the “inadmissibility” of the acquisition of territories by force. Even little Holland, which had tried to hold out and pursue an independent policy of friendship with Israel, had to give in and sign the joint resolution.

The nine were faced not only with a cold, dark and bleak winter but also with economic stagnation as a result of the oil embargo. They gave in to the urgings of France and Britain and adopted the resolution prepared by Foreign Ministers Michel Jobert of France and Sir Alec Douglas-Home of Britain. As a result, Israel finds itself even more isolated on the diplomatic field with Western Europe Joining the Soviet Union and the Arabs in pressing President Nixon into a tougher attitude towards Israel. French officials say that the European vote will show Washington that a continued outright support for Israel will isolate America even more than the Vietnam war.

For once the foreign ministers of the nine EEC countries were not dealing with an academic or an abstract political issue but with a red hot subject: all of Europe, the world’s third industrial power, was threatened with an energy crisis liable to bring to a stop all its activities. One of the nine, Holland, considered as “an enemy” by the Arab states, was completely deprived of oil. For the first time in its existence, not a car was to be seen on its roads and expressways since automobiles came into existence. The Belgian government decreed a speed limit of 60 miles per hour on all roads and one of 80 on expressways. As from next Sunday, traffic will stop on Sundays. In Italy the government is considering closing gas stations on weekends, lowering temperatures in public buildings and even closing down schools at Christmas for an extra two weeks to save on heating. In France the authorities have appealed to the public to cut down on oil and gas consumption. In a number of countries department stores have announced that they will cut down on Christmas illuminations to save electricity.

France and Britain, considered as “friends” by the Arabs, were in the most favorable situations. Both received assurances this week from Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s envoy, Mohammed el Zayyat, “that the oil restrictions will not hurt them.” And yet, both these countries also started feeling the pinch. In spite of the Common Market legislation which provides for a free flow of all goods and equipment, practically all the countries have invoked special regulations to prevent the export of oil. France, for example, invoked a law dating back to 1928 to prevent such exports without a special license obviously not granted right now.

For France and for Britain, the time seemed ripe to try and achieve the political integration which Europe has talked about for 10 years but never achieved. No wonder that the French paper “Le Monde” wrote: “Political Europe was created on November 6.” For France, the matter was even more imperative. President Georges Pompidou has forsaken many of De Gaulle’s basic tenets. One still is in force: the need for France and Europe to make their voices heard in any major East-West negotiation. For the first time France’s European partners were prepared to play along, not only because of the oil shortage but also because the East, with Russia’s half-million soldiers, is right on their doorsteps. Washington, and especially the State Department, had also managed to indispose and even anger its European NATO partners. West European diplomats say that America tried to use the available installations in Europe to refuel its planes carrying arms to Israel without bothering to Inform them or ask for their permission.

The diplomats thus quote as an example the fact that on Oct. 15, the American delegate to the NATO Council in Brussels Informed the other member states that “Russia has backed and is backing the Egyptian attack.” He clearly indicated that NATO has to take immediate measures. The announcement was made, say these circles, without the slightest diplomatic preparation. The British and French delegates immediately interrupted to stress that Israel is not a NATO member and that though America is free to act as it wishes it should not involve the NATO alliance as a whole in the Middle East war.

The second crisis came on Oct. 25 when the American delegate informed the NATO partners of the United States alert nine hours after it had actually taken place and hours after the delegates had heard the news on the radio. West Germany thus found out that without having been consulted American troops stationed on its territory had taken up battle posts along the eastern border. This development and the report that Israeli ships had been loading military hardware in the West German port of Bremen, are seen as links In a chain that led West German Foreign Minister Walter School to formally announce the Federal Republic’s “neutrality.”

The press reports from Washington quoting Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger as having expressed his “disgust” with America’s NATO allies at a Congressional hearing, further contributed to fan the European fires of revolt. The result was Brussels. A conference which for the first time succeeded in outlining a Joint European policy on any foreign issue. The loser was Israel. The unity was reached at Israel’s expense. West Europe can now be counted as a determined backer of Security Council Resolution 242 and a demand for an Israeli withdrawal to something like the pre-1967 borders. The weight of Europe will be felt not only at the United Nation–where the harm which can be done is limited in scope–but at all points of encounter between Washington and Europe. Both Paris and London believe that America will not be able to ride the test of absolute diplomatic Isolation. Sooner or later, say West European diplomats, with Watergate out of the way the American Administration will have to take our views into account. It will be a dark day for Israel.

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