Arab Leaders Support Israel, Even If They Don’t Want to Say So in Public

February 29, 2024 | Robert Satloff
About the author: Robert Satloff is the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of several books on the Middle East, including Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands.

After visiting several Middle Eastern countries and speaking to a variety of government officials and other prominent persons, Robert Satloff comes to a conclusion very much like that offered in Mosaic by the Israeli-American analyst Evelyn Gordon on October 12: “The Whole Middle East Is Counting on Israel to Destroy Hamas.”

In private, Arab states are rooting for Israel to destroy Hamas—one senior Arab official even said, “Israel is fighting for us in Gaza, and if it wins, it will succeed in defeating an Iranian proxy for the first time in 40 years.” But Arab states are focused on their own security and their own interests and are either unwilling or unable to play much of a role in shaping the outcome in Gaza or helping to fill the vacuum that will be left by the Hamas defeat they all privately say they want.

By and large, Arab states would like to roll the clock back to October 6, except on one point: they all face domestic political urgency because of mass sympathy for the Palestinians and Al Jazeera-fueled outrage against the Israelis, which has caused them to channel energy into producing some tangible progress on the goal of Palestinian statehood, energy that wasn’t there on October 7. It’s not readily apparent that this emerges from the people of Gaza, who surely have other things on their mind; it is a requirement of postwar diplomacy that is only connected to the war by the upsurge in popular affinity for the plight of the Palestinians.

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