TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
Transmitted below is COUNTERPUNCH's online publication of my "The Five
Percent Solution" article. Following after Tuesday's publication in the
ARAB NEWS (Jeddah), the article has also been published in today's
editions of AL-AHRAM WEEKLY (Cairo) and the JORDAN TIMES (Amman).
Realistically, while I believe that intelligent use of the "oil weapon"
offers the only practical hope for Middle East peace in my lifetime, I
do not expect that the political leaderships of the major Arab and
Muslim oil producers will choose to use it again.
However, if they were to focus on the other aspect of my proposed
"stick", setting a firm deadline for acceptance of the Arab Peace
Initiative (which would compel Israel and the United States to take it
seriously and to think about the unspecified consequences of its being
taken "off the table"), I believe that there is a real chance that they
could decide to do so -- unless, of course, they are perfectly happy to
collaborate with Israel and the United States in the mere pretense of a
"peace process' while the liquidation of Palestine continues, according
a higher priority to smooth relations with the United States than to
either peace or any measure of justice for the Palestinian people.
Realistically, such a prioritization is not inconceivable.
August 1, 2007
/Carrots-and-Sticks in the Middle East /
The Five Percent Solution
By JOHN V. WHITBECK
In an eloquent speech before the US Congress in early March, Jordan's
King Abdallah emphasized the urgent necessity of achieving an
Arab-Israeli peace this year. Sadly, there was little sense of urgency
evident on July 25, almost five months later, when the Egyptian and
Jordanian foreign ministers visited Jerusalem. The impression conveyed
during this rather awkward visit was, rather, one of resignation to
further years of drift.
A sense of urgency remains justified, and acquiescence in further years
of drift is not. The Arab world is not impotent. It has it within its
power to achieve Middle East peace with some measure of justice -- not
in some distant future but soon and not through enhanced violence but
through the intelligent and responsible application of restrained but
sustained economic pressure. A concerted, concrete and effective plan of
action could take the form of a simple, easily understood and ethically
unimpeachable "carrot-and-stick" approach.
The "carrot" has already been on offer, and left dangling, for more than
five years. It is the Arab Peace Initiative. First launched at an Arab
League summit in Beirut in March 2002 and reaffirmed with great
publicity at the latest summit in Riyadh in March 2007, it offers full
peace and normal diplomatic and economic relations between Israel and
all Arab states in return for a total end to the occupation of all Arab
lands occupied by Israel in 1967.
Unfortunately, since this offer, the most generous that Israel can ever
hope to receive from the Arab world, has never had a deadline for
acceptance attached to it, Israel has been free to ignore it with
impunity -- and has done so.
If Israel is now showing any interest in the Arab Peace Initiative, it
is only because the latest in the long line of "peace plans" exploited
to kill time, the American-initiated "road map", is transparently
shopworn. The clear, principled, unambiguous and inherently
non-negotiable -- but open-ended -- Arab Peace Initiative is therefore
timely as a potentially useful replacement which could be co-opted,
manipulated and deformed and around which Israel (with full American
support) could pick, nibble and dance for the next few years, in a
"resumption" of the perpetual "peace process" which is the antithesis of
peace, while continuing to build more settlements, more bypass roads and
more walls and, generally, continuing to make the occupation permanent
To prevent such a manipulation and deformation of the Arab Peace
Initiative, the "carrot" must be complemented with a credible and
effective "stick". The Arab League should make it clear that, if Israel
does not accept the Arab Peace Initiative, without reservations, by a
specific near-term date, it will lapse and be "off the table". At the
same time, the major Arab and Muslim oil producers should state that, if
Israel rejects the Arab Peace Initiative, then, until Israel complies
fully with international law and UN resolutions by withdrawing from all
occupied Arab land to its internationally recognized borders, they will
reduce their petroleum exports by increments of five percent each month
-- month after month after month.
It would, of course, be preferable if the United States, whose
unconditional support of Israel has made possible its continuing
occupation of Arab lands, were to undergo a moral and ethical
transformation and if Americans were suddenly to realize both that
Palestinians are human beings entitled to basic human rights and that
international law should be complied with by all, not only by the poor,
the weak and the Arab. Realistically, after so many years of
antithetical attitudes, such a transformation is most unlikely to occur.
However, if Americans cannot be reached through their hearts or minds,
they can be reached through their wallets. If oil prices, already near
historic highs, were to soar and stock market prices were to plunge,
Americans would be certain to start asking why, precisely, Israel should
be permitted to continue defying international law and UN resolutions
and denying Palestinians their basic human rights and why the United
States, alone, should be unconditionally supporting it in doing so -- at
the cost of both worldwide anti-American rage and sharply higher oil
prices for Americans.
Since no American national interests are served by Israel's continuing
occupation of Arab lands, no credible, non-racist answers could be
offered, and, with oil prices rising, stock market prices falling and no
reversal of these trends in sight, these questions would become more
insistent and Israel's defiant position could rapidly become untenable.
Under pressure even from their only unconditional supporters, Israelis
might well recognize, sooner than anyone would dare to hope today, that
their own security will never be ensured so long as they illegally
occupy any Arab lands and that full compliance with international law
and UN resolutions is profoundly in Israel's own long-term
self-interest, has in any event become unavoidable and should therefore
be embraced sooner rather than later.
While waiting for economic discomfort to stimulate common sense and
produce the result that serves the interests of all, Arab and Muslim
petroleum producers would suffer no pain or sacrifices. Each five
percent reduction in exports should result in a greater than five
percent increase in prices, and moderate but regular reductions in
exports, unlike a sudden total embargo, should be technically,
politically and psychologically sustainable. Special arrangements could
be made to ease the economic impact on poor consuming countries.
Does no one in the Arab world recall the courageous leadership of King
Faisal 34 years ago? For a brief, shining moment, the Arab world was
respected. "Respect" is not a word anyone would associate with the Arab
Rather, as Western occupation armies rule Iraq and high figures in
Washington talk publicly of carving Iraq up into pieces and redrawing
the map of the region to better serve Israeli and American interests,
the Arab world's status approaches that of Africa when the imperial
powers gathered at the Berlin Conference of 1885 to carve the continent
up among themselves.
There is nothing inevitable about this. Impotence is not an unavoidable
fact, and despair and resignation are not the only options. The source
of the strength which King Faisal wielded so effectively is still there.
All that is needed is the courage and leadership to use it wisely.
*John V. Whitbeck*, an international lawyer who writes frequently on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is author of "The World According to