Arab Attitudes to Israel Remain Constant, Despite Israeli Political Upheavals

Jan. 24 2023

According to recent high-quality polls taken in both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, 90 percent of respondents believe that the return of Benjamin Netanyahu to the premiership will be harmful to the region. Yet, observes David Pollock, support for contacts with the Jewish state in both countries has remained at 40 percent since 2020. Pollock comments on these findings, and others from other elsewhere in the Middle East:

It now appears that Netanyahu’s return to power, highly unpopular as that is among these Gulf Arab publics, does not alter [the general] pattern. In addition, findings from a parallel survey conducted in Bahrain in July 2022 are remarkably similar, with 37 percent of Bahrainis also voicing acceptance of allowing Israeli contacts. Even in Qatar, which has not joined the Abraham Accords, the most recent available data (November 2021) reveal an almost identical level of popular acceptance of Israeli contacts among its citizens.

The logical conclusion is that this aspect of normalization with Israel has itself become relatively “normalized” among most Gulf Arab publics—even as a slim majority in each country remains privately at least “somewhat” opposed to it. The figures are similar and steady over the past three years, regardless of formal inclusion or exclusion from the Abraham Accords, political changes in Israel, or tensions on the ground in the Palestinian arena.

Also noteworthy in this connection is that among the Palestinians themselves, the most recent available hard survey data (June 2022) show an even higher proportion—at least 60 percent of each subgroup—approving certain contacts with Israelis. In this case, a West Bank/Gaza/east Jerusalem poll conducted by a local independent Palestinian pollster asked about encouraging “direct personal contacts and dialogue with Israelis, in order to help the Israeli peace camp advocate a just solution.” At the time, a surprising 48 percent of east Jerusalem Palestinians also expressed a positive view of the Abraham Accords themselves, though only around half as many Gazans or West Bankers agreed with that assessment.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Abraham Accords, Israel-Arab relations, Palestinian public opinion, Persian Gulf

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy