Islamic State Is Unlikely to Prioritize Killing Israelis

April 21 2022

The recent wave of terrorism in Israel was touched off by two attacks linked to Islamic State (IS). Until now, notes Cole Bunzel, such attacks have been exceedingly rare, largely because IS “is not ideologically disposed” to focus its military efforts on the Jewish state. Bunzel sketches the objectives and attitudes of key IS leaders and concludes that, while the terrorist group may occasionally execute one-off strikes against Israel, it is unlikely to devote serious resources to it.

To understand how Islamic State views Israel, it is helpful to begin with the relevant statements of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (d. 2006), the Jordanian founder of al-Qaeda in Iraq whose ideas form the foundation stone of the present-day caliphate. Palestine was not a prominent theme in al-Zarqawi’s speeches and lectures. Nor was attacking the Israelis a priority for him. On several occasions, he claimed that the liberation of Palestine would come only after victory had been achieved in Iraq and the Shiites had been subdued.

It was his view . . . that before one could effectively fight the “original unbelievers,” meaning the Jews and the Christians, it was first necessary to fight the Shiites. In this he was guided by his reading of medieval Islamic history, in particular the late Crusader period coinciding with rise of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (aka Saladin) and his defeat of the Shiite Fatimid caliphate in Egypt. In 1171, Saladin abolished the Fatimid caliphate and went on to construct a Sunni state spanning Egypt and Syria. A decade and a half later, in 1187, he captured Jerusalem following the decisive Battle of Hattin against the Crusader forces.

As Zarqawi saw it, there was “an important lesson” to be gleaned from this history. This was that “there will not be victory over the original unbelievers except after fighting the apostate unbelievers who are allied with the original believers.”

Read more at Jihadica

More about: ISIS, Israeli Security, Jihadism, Shiites


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount