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.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

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

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy