In Saudi Arabia, Public Opinion about Israel Is Shifting

June 12 2018

While the growing cooperation between Jerusalem and Riyadh, especially regarding the threat to both posed by Iran, is hardly a secret, it has generally stayed out of public view and has not been reflected in popular opinion. But recently the change in attitude has begun to creep into the Saudi press, as Z. Harel details:

Saudi intellectuals, journalists, and writers have increasingly expressed open support for Israel, approving of its policy towards Iran and even calling to normalize relations and make peace with it. This, they say, could put a stop to Iran’s hostile policies, since the perpetuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict serves Iran’s expansionist ambitions. In some cases, these Saudi intellectuals and journalists have also expressed support for Israel in matters pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and especially the clashes on the Gaza border as part of the “Great Return March” campaign. Some of them blamed the events on Hamas and on Iran, which they said were promoting their interests at the expense of the children of Gaza.

It should be noted that this is not the first time such voices are heard in Saudi Arabia. . . . It should also be mentioned that, alongside the clear trend of articles supporting Israel, the Saudi media continue to publish many articles that criticize it.

Particularly stark is the position taken on social media by the liberal Saudi intellectual Turki al-Hamad, translated by Harel as follows:

I was with a group of friends and an argument broke out about the Israeli attacks on Iranian positions in Syria. One of them stood up to condemn the Israeli attacks on an Arab country. To be honest, I was surprised at this. What does he expect Israel to do when it sees the Iranian snake coiling itself around it? . . . Naturally, it couldn’t stand idly by. We are hostile to Israel [just] because it is Israel, not because it poses a threat. That’s how we were brought up and how they [the Israelis] were brought up, so that a psychological barrier has been created between the sides. The real threat in the Gulf today is Iran, but the veil of the traditional resentment toward Israel prevents us from seeing this reality. Let them call [me] pro-Zionist. Zionism is better for my country than the Arab nationalism that has caused us losses.

When the violence along the Gaza border escalated sharply on May 14, Hamad openly expressed his sympathies with Israel, commenting that the Israel-Palestinian conflict “has become boring” and is now “a source of income for some people and a way to grant false legitimacy to the activities of others.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israel-Arab relations, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Saudi Arabia

Israel Should Try to Defang Hamas without Toppling It

Feb. 22 2019

For the time being, Hamas has chosen to avoid outright war with the Jewish state, but instead to apply sustained, low-intensity pressure through its weekly border riots and organizing terrorist cells in the West Bank. Yet it is simultaneously engaged in a major military build-up, which suggests that it has not entirely been deterred by the previous three Gaza wars. Yaakov Lappin considers Jerusalem’s options:

In recent years, the Israel Defense Force’s southern command, which is responsible for much of the war planning for Gaza, identified a long-term truce as the best of bad options for Israel. This is based on the understanding that an Israeli invasion of Gaza and subsequent destruction of the Hamas regime would leave Israel in the unenviable position of being directly in charge of some two-million mostly hostile Gazans. This could lead to an open-ended and draining military occupation. . . .

Alternatively, Israel could demolish the Hamas regime and leave Gaza, putting it on a fast track to a “Somalia model” of anarchy and violence. In that scenario, . . . multiple jihadist armed gangs lacking a central ruling structure would appear, and Israel would be unable to project its military might to any single “return address” in Gaza. This would result in a loss of Israel’s deterrent force on Gaza to keep the region calm. This scenario would be considerably worse than the current status quo.

But a third option, in between the options of leaving Gaza as it is and toppling Hamas in a future war, may exist. In this scenario, the IDF would decimate Hamas’s military wing in any future conflict but leave its political wing and police force in place. This would enable a rapid Israeli exit after a war, but avoid a Somalia-like fate for Gaza with its destructive implications for both Israelis and Gazans. . . .

On the one hand, Hamas’s police force is an intrinsic support system for Gaza’s terrorist-guerrilla forces. On the other hand, the police and domestic-security units play a genuine role in keeping order. Such forces have been used to repress Islamic State-affiliated cells that challenge Hamas’s rule. . . . Compared to the alternative scenarios of indefinite occupation or the “Somalia scenario,” a weakened Hamas might be the best and most realistic option.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security