Oil importing countries, including the US, had best give thought to the emergency measures they will want to take in the event of a deliberate and serious reduction in the flow of oil from the Middle East.
The tip-off that more serious measures are being planned by the oil-exporting countries comes in the decision of the government of the Netherlands to move its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. The Dutch do not make moves like this without a reason. In this case the reason was a warning to them that there would be severe economic penalties on them should they fail to comply with the resolution adopted in the UN Security Council on Aug. 20. That resolution called for removal of all embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv as a form of protest against the vote in the Israeli Knesset on July 30 in favor of annexation of the entire city of Jerusalem by Israel.
That decision in the Knesset, which carried by a vote of 69 to 15, has set in motion a train of circumstances which had best be noticed by all who would be affected by a serious decline in the flow of oil from the Middle East. The Netherlands is one of these. It has complied.
Previous to the UN vote 12 Latin American coutries and the Netherlands maintained embassies in Jerusalem. Since the vote Venezuela, URuguay, Chile, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica, Haiti, El Salvador, and the Netherlands have complied. All other countries have consistently kept their official diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv which is still considered under international law to be the capital.
The Knesset vote sent a shock wave through the Arab and Muslim communities. The biggest difference it has made seems to have been in Saudi Arabia. Until now the Saudis have always been the most moderate and least anti-Israeli of the oil-producing ARab countries. Saudi oil continued to flow to the US, although unofficially, during the 1973- 74 oil embargo. The US suffered from gasoline lines at the pumps, but US industry was not seriously disrupted. The Saudis were helpful and considerate.
The importance of SAudi oil is such that there could be no effective action against Israel without Saudi support. But the other side of that coin is that action could be effective if the Saudis decided that the time for action had come.
Has the government of Saudi Arabia reached such a conclusion? A solemn warning has been issued. Crown Prince Fahd is the leading and most important member of the royal family. On Aug. 13, in Mecca, on a Muslim holy day, he spoke out against the annexation of Jerusalem. He made a "solemn promise to all Arabs and Muslims" to do something about it. He asked a rhetorical question: "Is not the Arabs' and Muslims' call for a prolonged and persistent jihadm the only reply to this Zionist religious and racist arrogance?"
The prince did not declare a jihad.m He did not propose a jihad.m He only asked the question whether it might be the right course of action for Muslims. Ever since the question has been whether and how much following there would be to the position he took in Mecca that day.
It was followed almost at once by a meeting in Casablanca of the jerusalem committee of the Islamic countries. At that meeting various tentative measures were discussed. One of these called for a political and economic boycott of all countries which "approve, encourage, or participate in" Israel's annexation of Jerusalem.
Those proposals will go before a meeting of Islamic foreign ministers scheduled for Sept. 18 in Morocco.
Heretofore the Saudis have always gone along with such measures ritualistically and nominally, but not with decisive actual participation. Was the July 30 vote in the Knesset the last straw for the Saudis? People in their government have long been warning Western diplomats that any Israeli move to annex East Jerusalem would be regarded in Mecca as intolerable.
Prince FAhd's warning was quite enough for the Netherlands which has long been Israel's most loyal friend in WEstern Europe. The Dutch are now joining all the other West European countries against Israel's current policy of territorial expansion.
President Carter is trying to head off any further developments by again sending his Middle East negotiator, Sol M. Linowitz, out there for more talks with President Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Begin of Israel. The fact is that the initiative which Mr. Carter seized at Camp David is slipping from his hands. His inability to prevent the Knesset vote has undermined his credibility among the Arabs, and the Europeans. Those others are taking over the initiative.