A recent Arab opinion poll finds there is strong disapproval for any normalisation deal with Israel.

An opinion poll conducted by Qatar-run Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS), has indicated that large majorities across the Arab world have disapproved of any normalisation process with Israel. 

Most recently, the UAE-Bahrain normalisation deal with Israel has angered a large number of ordinary Arabs across the world, triggering protests in Palestine and several other countries. 

Many analysts have long argued that the Arab autocrat states’ recognition of Israel from Egypt and Jordan, to most recently, the UAE and Bahrain, represents a tiny minority of the Middle Eastern people.

“An overwhelming majority (88%) of Arabs disapprove of recognition of Israel by their home countries, with only 6% accepting formal diplomatic recognition,” says the poll report, which was released on Tuesday.  

The survey also finds a powerful support for the Palestinian cause among ordinary Arabs, who identify the conflict as an Arab issue. “Over three quarters of the Arab public agree that the Palestinian cause concerns all Arabs, and not the Palestinians alone,” the poll says. 

The survey was conducted across 13 Arab countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq between November 2019 and September 2020. 

“In fact, one half of those who accepted formal diplomatic relations with Israel and their governments made such a move conditional on the formation of an independent Palestinian state,” the report finds. 

Until now, none of the Arab normalisation deals with Israel, including the latest UAE-Bahrain agreement, have laid out conditions related to Israeli acceptance of the Palestinian state. 

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed display their copies of signed agreements while US President Donald Trump looks on as they participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords, normalising relations between Israel and some of its neighbours.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed display their copies of signed agreements while US President Donald Trump looks on as they participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords, normalising relations between Israel and some of its neighbours. (AP)

Among the countries, the highest opposition to any Arab normalisation came from Algeria, a north African state, which had gone through a terrible colonial experience under France similar to what the Palestinians have long experienced at the hands of Israelis. Prominent experts, like Prof. Richard Falk, defines Israel as a colonialist state in the postcolonial world. 

The ACRPS opinion poll confirms how much the colonialist past and the Western hegemony over the Arab world following World War I has helped define the political sentiments of the Arab world. 

“When asked to elaborate on the reasons for their positions, respondents who were opposed to diplomatic ties between their countries and Israel focused on several factors, such as Israeli racism towards the Palestinians and its colonialist, expansionist policies,” the poll says. 

Algeria, where the opposition to normalisations run as high as 99 percent, has been followed by Lebanon, another former French colony, with 94 percent opposition and Tunisia, which is also a former colony under France, with 93 percent rejection.

A Tunisian protester holds a placard that shows the Palestinian flag and Arabic that reads,
A Tunisian protester holds a placard that shows the Palestinian flag and Arabic that reads, "Liberating Palestine is the duty of the nation," at a demonstration against the Arab Summit, in downtown Tunis, Tunisia, March 31, 2019. (Hussein Malla / AP Archive)

In Jordan, a country, which recognised Israel in 1994 in the wake of the Oslo Peace Accords between Israelis and Palestinians, the opposition to any normalisation with Tel Aviv is one of the highest across the Arab world, hitting at 93 percent. 

Even the Gulf street does not like normalisation 

Popular opposition to the normalisation with Israel is very strong in the Gulf, where the Arab autocrat sentiment to warm relations with the Zionist state runs high in regard to other Middle Eastern regions.  

The average opposition to Arab-Israeli normalisation is hitting its highest degree in the Gulf, according to the poll. 

“Refusal to recognise Israel is proportionally the highest in the Gulf region; nearly 90% of Qatar and Kuwait respondents reject their country’s recognition of Israel, and 65% of Saudis expressed their rejection, as contrasted with 6% who agreed to recognition, while 29% refused to express their opinion,” the report says.

It appears to be a worrying sign for the Arab autocrats of the Saudi kingdom, as it has been recently rumoured that Riyadh will normalise its relations with Israel at some point following the UAE-Bahrain deal. The poll, however, was not conducted in neither the UAE nor Bahrain. 

Many Saudi policies under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), ranging from the Jamal Khashoggi murder, to the purge of a number of royal family members, have already irked a good part of its conservative society, raising questions over the kingdom’s future political stability. 

The strong street opposition to the Israel-Arab normalisation could also carry potential risks for Sudan’s newly established reformist government, which has recently appeared to grow closer with Tel Aviv. 

People chant slogans to protest Sudanese President of the Sovereignty Council Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan's contentious decision to meet Israel's prime minister last week in a move toward normalizing relations, in Khartoum, Sudan, Feb. 7, 2020.
People chant slogans to protest Sudanese President of the Sovereignty Council Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan's contentious decision to meet Israel's prime minister last week in a move toward normalizing relations, in Khartoum, Sudan, Feb. 7, 2020. (Marwan Ali) / AP Archive)

“Only 13% of the Sudanese agreed that their country should recognise Israel, compared to 79% of them who rejected such a step,” according to the Arab opinion poll. 

Khartoum’s technocrat-led civilian government, which is allied with the military, was formed after popular unrest toppled the country’s long-time autocratic leader, Omar Bashir, last year.

"Israel is developed. The entire world works with Israel. For development, for agriculture - we need Israel," said Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, Deputy Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, which has many powers including appointing the country’s prime minister and signing international agreements, last week. 

Dagalo, who has been accused of crimes against humanity by different human rights organisations for his conduct against civilians under Bashir’s rule, is Sudan’s second most powerful general. 

Demand for democracy is high

The opinion poll has also revealed other important trends across the Arab world on issues ranging from democracy to political parties, religiosity and secularism.

Significant majorities across the polled countries have expressed their demand for democracy in their respective countries, according to the poll.

Nearly 80 percent of the respondents think that “The democratic system, even if it has its problems, is better than other systems,” according to the poll. 

In the Nile Valley, which includes Egypt and the Arab Gulf, the positive sentiment toward democracy is very strong, the poll has found. 

Small minorities have favoured autocratic and military-led governments, which are common across the Middle East. 

“This consensus on support for democracy is accompanied by a negative evaluation of existing democracy in the Arab World. Respondents placed the level of democracy in the region at 5.8/10 – that is, democracy remains, as far as they are concerned, only halfway there,” the report states. 

The poll has also crucially found that majorities across the Middle East see the Arab Uprisings or the Arab Spring, with a positive lens. No matter the region, from north Africa to the Gulf, most people have expressed support for the Arab Spring, according to the poll. 

The findings also indicated that the level of trust for political parties is low across the Arab world. 

Arab majorities, which extend to over 80 percent in almost all countries, have continued to define themselves religious, according to the poll, while the positive attitude toward secularism has appeared to be a draw. 

Source: TRT World