As early as 1945, the Arab League launched an economic boycott of the Jews in Palestine. When Israel was proclaimed in 1948, all economic transactions between Israel and Arab states were banned. In 1951, the Arab League opened a special office responsible for enforcing the boycott. Guidelines were drawn up which not only prohibited direct economic, political and cultural relations with Israel but also blacklisted companies that traded with Israel. In 1964, the Arab League also set aside money to support the formation of the Palestinian liberation movement PLO.
Although some countries resumed trade with Israel and established diplomatic relations in connection with the peace process in the 1990’s, the Arab League did not make a formal decision to end the boycott. Over the years, Member States have called for the boycott to be revived, but decisions taken by the Arab League have not been complied with. At an extraordinary summit held in 2000 due to increasing violence in the conflict, the issue was again on the agenda. A more moderate line won, and the individual members had to decide for themselves whether they wanted to boycott Israel. Libya left the summit in protest. During the year, Oman and Qatar severed ties with Israel, and Egypt marked a diplomatic distance from Israel after the meeting.
One source of conflict within the organization was initially the question of whether some of the Member States’ oil resources would be used politically in the fight against Israel. As early as 1946, the Arab League made a decision in principle to stop oil exports in order to put pressure on countries that supported the Jews’ claim to their own state in the Palestinian territories. As oil was not yet significant enough in the United States and other Western countries, the weapon was not considered effective. In 1951, the Arab League coordinated the oil policies of the oil-producing countries by forming an Arab Oil Experts Committee, which became the federation’s mouthpiece on oil issues. The committee became the driving force behind an oil embargo, which would prevent Israel from gaining access to Arab oil. When war broke out again between Egypt and Israel in 1967, the Arab Ministers of Economy and Oil decided that all supplies of oil to countries that supported Israel would cease. The oil embargo (imposed on the United States, West Germany and the United Kingdom) proved to be the hardest hit by the oil-exporting Arab states themselves. However, the oil weapon was used again in 1973 against countries that supported Israel in the so-called October war against Egypt.
Intifada and peace process
In 1987, a Palestinian uprising, the Intifada, began in the West Bank and Gaza. The Intifada became one of the main drivers of a peace process from the late 1980’s. In 1988, the Palestinians proclaimed the state of Palestine. Its borders were not defined, but the proclamation indirectly meant that the PLO recognized the state of Israel. In 1991, a conference on peace in the Middle East was launched in Madrid. The parties officially recognized each other in 1993, and an agreement in principle on Palestinian autonomy in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was signed. A more detailed agreement was adopted in May 1994, and in the following years Israel withdrew from parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestinian autonomy was declared in these areas.
In 1994, Jordan and Israel concluded a peace agreement, and in 1999, Mauritania decided to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. However, no agreements have yet been concluded between Israel and Syria or Lebanon, although talks have taken place.
At the turn of the millennium, it became clear that the parties were far apart. Israel continued to build settlements on occupied land and both sides committed acts of violence. In 2000, the peace process failed. During the Palestinian al-Aqsa uprising (“second intifada”), a new wave of suicide bombings and other acts of violence began. In 2002, Israel recaptured the West Bank and besieged the Palestinian president’s headquarters. At the same time, Israel began building a barrier along the border with the West Bank to protect itself from suicide bombers. The Arab League condemned Israel’s policies and sided with the Palestinians, although the Palestinian issue was treated differently after the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War when Iraq invaded Kuwait and was driven back by a US-led alliance.
According to oxfordastronomy, the Palestinians, assisted financially by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, among others, had supported Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during the war. It did not only upset the Saudis and Kuwaitis. After the conflict, there was no longer talk of the PLO as the Palestinians’ only legitimate representative. But in the second half of the 1990’s, the Palestinians were able to strengthen their influence again. When the peace process stalled, the Palestinian issue was moved up on the agenda of the Arab League. In 2002, the Arab League launched its own peace plan that offered Israel security guarantees and a normalization of relations with the Arab world. In return, Israel would withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza, agree to establish a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and allow all refugees to return or receive compensation.
The difficult questions about the future of the Palestinians have remained unresolved. Israel has instead stepped in to improve its relations with other Arab countries. Gulf states The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain (which have not themselves been at war with Israel) announced in 2020 that they recognize Israel and establish various forms of exchange with the country. A rapprochement between Oman and Israel was also reported. The driving force behind the decisions was US action under President Donald Trump in support of Israel. In part, the turnaround has been justified as a way to prevent Israel from carrying out intentions to annex more of the occupied Palestinian land, but it is clear that the desire for cooperation with Israel’s successful high-tech industries has affected the Gulf states. Saudi Arabia has also taken a more conciliatory stance towards Israel.