Even though rulers of Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have recently began to court Israel more overtly and tried to portray Iran as the enemy of Arabs, a recent opinion poll found that a majority of nationals in the same countries consider Israel as the biggest threat to regional stability.
The poll that was conducted by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in the Qatari capital Doha showed that above 75 percent of Arabs consider Israel as well as the United States as the top two threats to their national security.
It also held that the Palestinian cause was an Arab one. Ninety percent called Israel a source of instability in the region.
Eighty-seven percent of the participants said were against their countries’ recognition of Israel. Asked to elaborate, many cited “Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians and its colonial policies,” the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal reported, citing the poll’s results.
The study, known as the Arab Opinion Index, was based on interviews with more than 18,000 Arab citizens in 11 countries and its results were published on Thursday.
For the first time since 2011, when the center started carrying out the study, pollsters had a difficult time gauging Saudi citizens’ opinions on Palestine.
When asked about Palestine, about 36 percent of the Saudis said they did not know or declined to answer, in contrast to five percent in the rest of the countries polled.
“Saudi Arabia’s repressive domestic political atmosphere coupled with the ascension of Mohammed bin Salman to the position of crown prince as well as the regional shift in [Persian] Gulf-Israeli relations have affected the way Saudis engaged with the survey,” the MEE added, citing the pollsters.
Bin Salman, who has been trying to portray himself as a reformer, controversially said earlier in the year that Israelis were entitled to their “own land,” and that Palestinians should either accept “peace proposals” or “shut up”.
Eighty-seven percent, meanwhile, said they held a negative view of US policy towards Palestine.
The results came as Washington is about to unveil a “peace plan” aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which it has devised without negotiating with the Palestinians.
Last year, US President Donald Trump recognized the occupied holy city of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” and announced that Washington would be relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to the city.
The survey also found that 81 percent of Arabs also perceived US foreign policy towards war-ravaged Syria negatively, as did 82 percent on Iraq.
The Arab Opinion Index, which has been published yearly since 2011, has become a barometer of Arab public opinion from Lebanon to Mauritania on issues ranging from local economy to global foreign affairs.