As Israel and Gaza draw closer to all-out war, a new battle for narrative is waged between the Arab states. For the first time in the many clashes between the Israeli state and the occupied territory, the regional unity on who is to blame and what needs to be done to stop the fighting has broken down.
While some Muslim-majority states, such as Turkey and Iran, accused Israel of inciting hatred at the al-Aqsa mosque and committing atrocities in Gaza, other countries that followed suit. not in previous outbreaks have this time been more sober.
The relative silence has been led by states that made peace with Israel in the last year of the Trump administration and are now standard bearers of the so-called Abraham Accords.
The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, all of which have recently normalized relations with Israel, now find themselves balancing their new relationships with citizens who have expressed their anger at Israel’s violence.
Longtime observers of Israel and Palestine say divergent reactions to this round of fighting have put some regional powers in a difficult position with their own populations.
“It is extraordinary, in this position of denial of the Emiratis in particular, that they have not issued barely a single criticism of what is happening in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories,” said Chris Doyle, director of the Advice for Arab-British understanding. (CAABU).
“This sends a signal from the Emirati leadership that we are not going to walk away from this nascent alliance with Israel, which they see as valuable for future plans; this includes the fight against Iran, Turkey and Muslim Brotherhood groups.
“There is a lot of room to make a very favorable declaration of Palestinian rights without endorsing Hamas. And they didn’t.
In what appeared to be a state-backed response, the hashtag “Palestine is not my cause” circulated in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait over the weekend. This did little to undermine regional support for Gaza and East Jerusalem Twitter accounts denouncing scenes of violence and Israeli leaders.
« [These governments] are on the wrong side of public opinion in the way they are perceived and received by people in the Arab region, ”said Mohanad Hage Ali, researcher at the Carnegie Middle East Center. “They are trying to conduct an active foreign policy by taking positions that they have never had before. They could be seen as synonymous with the Israeli occupation and Israeli policy in the region. This will impact not only Israel, but their new Arab allies. And it will tarnish their reputation.
“The regimes are very nervous about Arab public opinion,” Doyle said. “These scenes of the bombing of Gaza will make the leaders very worried and will make them wish they were over as soon as possible.”
Coverage of the conflict has been almost non-existent in UAE newspapers and has been stifled in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which has yet to sign a peace deal with Israel but has hinted it may. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Saudi heir Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Neom on the Red Sea coast earlier this year. The ties between the two states run deeper than ever – even without concrete steps towards a peace agreement.
Riyadh’s position has placed a two-state solution at the center of any solution – a position long adopted by the Arab League. He did not choose a more confrontational language than the smaller players in the region. “What we’ve seen in the past is that the king and the crown prince don’t necessarily see the conflict the same way, and the king would be more inclined to be critical.