OPEC and the Arab-Israeli conflict
Prior to the Second World War, oil fields of the Middle East
were relevant primarily to the governments and oil companies
of Europe. In more recent years, the United States government
and oil companies have been more significant.
While OPEC originated and developed in strength in partial
response to the-control of oil production by intefnational
companies, it was an organisation concerned primarily with
economic rather than political relationships, especially in
relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict, where co-ordinated
action was and is largely prevented by the diverse political
nature of the membership.
External to OPEC, efforts to use oil supplies as a political
instrument by Iran and Egypt in the 1950s were unsuccessful but
served to increase the concern of western governments with
security of supply, a concept relevant to relations between
those governments and the Middle East for several decades.
Security of supply has formed a motivating force in attitudes
to Zionism and the development of the State of Israel.
Within OPEC, the period 1960-1980 witnessed considerable
efforts by Israel and by Palestinian organisations to influence
member states as a major part of their foreign policy
orientations. There is little evidence supporting the idea
that non-Arab member states of OPEC changed their attitudes
to the Arab-Israeli conflict in any fundamental way.
While the OPEC group of nations had considerable influence
on international attitudes in the 1970s, and while this
influence effectively changed the orientation of some western
governments towards the Arab-Israeli conflict, this was not the
result of any co-ordinated action by OPEC as a whole, and was
secondary to the economic effects of OPEC's actions.
The wealth accruing to Middle East countries has, in some cases,
resulted in increased financial commitments to Palestinian
territory under occupation by Israel, and this has certainly
been significant in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Thus the effect of the actions of OPEC on the Arab-Israeli
conflict has been, at most, indirect and unintended by the
organisation as a whole.