Last updated on: 5/14/2008 10:58:00 AM PST

What Was the Outcome of the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo?



General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Howard M. Sachar, PhD, Professor of History at George Washington University, in his 1976 book titled A History of Israel, wrote:

"It was doubtful, in fact, if even the most committed Arab nationalist regime had anticipated the effectiveness of the oil weapon. Reacting to the depleted shipments and price rises with near-hysteria, the British, French, Italians, and Belgians immediately introduced tight controls on oil use. Eventually Britain reduced its factory work schedule to four days a week. Italy's ocean liners were kept in port for lack of fuel. The Netherlands, meanwhile, hardest hit of all by a total boycott, was obliged to appeal to its Common Market partners for emergency aid.

On November 6 the EEC [European Economic Community] foreign ministers gathered in Brussels to discuss the problem...Ministers released a statement intended to placate the Arab world, declaring that Israel must return all Arab territories occupied since 1967 and take into account 'the rights of the Palestinians.' If they were gratified, the Arabs were by no means fully appeased. The oil reductions continued, the agony in Western Europe mounted, and with it Israel's sense of diplomatic isolation. Apparently reliance could be placed on the United States alone...

These were the circumstances under which Kissinger sought, and achieved, a more flexible Israeli bargaining position from [Israeli Prime Minister] Mrs. Meir. The secretary then pursued the opportunity for a Middle East accommodation in a five-nation swing through the Arab capitals...He was well received by the Arab leaders as a 'messenger of peace,' the only man, after all, who could persuade the Israelis to disgorge occupied land...

Shuttling in his huge presidential jet transport between Aswan [Egypt] and Tel Aviv [Israel], occasionally bringing with him compromise proposals of his own, Kissinger swiftly bridged the gap between the two sides. On January 17 he cabled Nixon that agreement on troop disengagement had been reached; the following day Generals Elazar [Israeli] and Gamazi [Egyptian] would sign the document [of disengagement]...

It was indeed his success in mediating the disengagement, and his promise to undertake a similar effort between Israel and Syria, that persuaded the Arab oil-producing nations on March 18 to end their embargo, although not their continuing price hikes. Factories in Europe and the United States gradually resumed production; traffic began to move freely again."

1976 - Howard M. Sachar, PhD 

The Congressional Quarterly, in the 2000 edition of The Middle East, wrote:

"The embargo was immensely effective for the Arabs from an economic standpoint, but it had a powerful political effect as well. On November 6, 1973, representatives of the European Economic Community (Common Market), meeting in Brussels, adopted a statement urging Israel and Egypt to return to the October 22 cease-fire lines that had been drawn before Israeli troops completed the encirclement of Egypt's Third Army. They called on Israel to 'end the territorial occupation which it has maintained since the conflict of 1967' and declared that peace in the Middle East was incompatible with 'the acquisition of territory by force.' Moreover, they declared that any settlement had to take into account 'the legitimate rights' of the Palestinian refugees.

Later in the month Japan followed suit. On November 22 the Japanese cabinet announced that it might reconsider its policy toward Israel. The Arabs rewarded western Europe and Japan by exempting them from the 5 percent cut in oil production for December. On December 13 Japan appealed to Israel to withdraw to the October 22 cease-fire lines as a first step toward total withdrawal from occupied Arab territories. OAPEC [Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries] made further concessions to Western Europe and Japan on December 25 by canceling the January cutback and announcing a 10 percent oil production increase.

The United States, too, was influenced by the embargo. Although Washington officials repeatedly denounced the Arab tactics and declared that the United States would not submit to such coercion, the oil squeeze undoubtedly contributed to the desire of the U.S. government and people to push for a Middle East peace.

Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger shuttled relentlessly throughout the Middle East attempting to mediate a settlement. A series of peace missions produced the November 11, 1973, cease-fire agreement between Israel and Egypt, resumption of diplomatic relations between the United States and Egypt, the first round of Geneva peace talks, the Egyptian-Israeli disengagement accord, and a disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria.

President Anwar al-Sadat of Egypt led the way toward ending the boycott. On January 22, 1974, he said Arab oil states should note the 'evolution' in U.S. policy toward the Middle East and later predicted that the United States would be more evenhanded in its approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

OAPEC's formal announcement of an end to the embargo against the United States came at a Vienna meeting on March 18, 1974. Libya and Syria, however, refused to formally end the boycott until later in the year."

2000 - Congressional Quarterly (CQ)