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

At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down

April 22 2019

Although Nikki Haley had never been to Israel when she took the position of American ambassador to the UN, and had no prior foreign-policy experience, she distinguished herself as one of the most capable and vigorous defenders of the Jewish state ever to hold the position. Jon Lerner, who served as Haley’s deputy during her ambassadorship, sees the key to her success—regarding both Israel and many other matters—in her refusal to abide by the polite fictions that the institution holds sacred:

Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows [the U.S.] to sustain [its] relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that many had come to take for granted, and, in some cases, to refute them. Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice to reject myths that had pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues for decades. . . .

[For instance], U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. President Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries. . . .

It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests like opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows like the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Even if future U.S. administrations revert to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproved. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, United Nations, US-Israel relations