A close read of the agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel suggests that the Jewish state has won far more than diplomatic recognition. It won acknowledgement of its claim to historic Jewish rights. By the same token, the UAE has received a significant boost to project itself as a leader in inter-faith dialogue.
An Emirati offer to invest in Israel’s most controversial soccer club could serve as a figurative litmus test of hopes that Arab recognition of the Jewish state may persuade it to be more empathetic towards Palestinian national aspirations.
Will the Saudis formalize relations with Israel or will they not? That is the 64,000-dollar question.
The United Arab Emirates’ establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel is damaging its efforts to garner religious soft power by projecting itself as a model of Islamic moderation and tolerance and a force for peace. The UAE move has sparked splits within a key group, created and nurtured by the Gulf state, to project its image as a moderate religious power.
Here are two potential indicators of Chinese interest in moving ahead with a proposed US$400 billion economic and military cooperation agreement with Iran: a Chinese push for Iranian membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and renewed interest in a China-Pakistan-Iran-Turkey energy pipeline. China has moved on neither.
STEUBEN PRESS 2020
September 4, 2020 James M. Dorsey
James Zogby’s The Tumultuous Decade: Arab Public Opinion and the Upheavals of 2010–2019 (Steuben Press, 2020) takes the reader on a decade-long tour of the Middle East as the region reverberates from popular revolts that toppled long-standing dictators, civil and proxy wars that sparked some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, foreign interventions and seemingly intractable power struggles.
It does so through the eyes of ordinary Arabs, Iranians, and Turks rather than the region’s political elites. Zogby’s ability to tease out a sense of public opinion in a part of the world in which freedom of expression and freedom of the media are rare quantities constitutes an important contribution to the literature and understanding of a region that often seems too complex and intricate to easily wrap one’s head around.
In a world of autocracy, repression and conflict, polls often offer ordinary citizens a rare opportunity to express an opinion. Zogby demonstrates that autocratic and authoritarian leaders frequently ignore public opinion but track it closely and at times are swayed by what the public thinks and wants. Years of polling also demonstrates that failure to understand public sentiment and/or take it into account produces misinformed and misguided policies not only by rulers in the region but also governments like that of the United States.
Zogby’s discussion of Iraq since the 2003 US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein illustrates the point. So does his analysis of polling of attitudes over several years in countries that overthrew their leaders during the 2011 popular Arab revolts as well as of perceptions of Iran and Palestinians incapable of wresting themselves from Israeli occupation. Zogby’s book offers a different look at the Middle East, one that offers fresh insights on the basis of citizens’ aspirations rather than what authoritarian and often corrupt elites would like the world to believe.
James Zogby is director of Zogby Research Services, a firm that has conducted groundbreaking surveys across the Middle East, and the founder and president of the Washington, DC-based Arab American Institute.
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute. He is the author of the syndicated, column, blog and podcast, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer
The decision by the UAE to establish diplomatic relations with Israel keeps a negotiated solution with Palestine on life support. There is no indication that forging relations with Israel will be more successful in nudging the Jewish state towards peace with Palestine on mutually acceptable terms than the failed formula of offering Arab recognition in exchange for peace was.
A rift between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia throws into sharp relief deepening fissures in the Muslim world. Coupled with the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and a myriad of other conflicts in the Middle East, the dispute poses serious challenges to Saudi Arabia’s quest for geopolitical and religious leadership of the Muslim world.
Rare polling of public opinion in Saudi Arabia suggests that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may be more sensitive to domestic public opinion on foreign policy issues such as Palestine than he lets on. The polling also indicates that a substantial number of Saudis is empathetic to protest as a vehicle for political change.
Unfettered Chinese support for Saudi Arabia’s so far peaceful nuclear energy program risks fueling a burgeoning Middle East arms race amid concerns that the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement is all but dead, Turkey suggesting it has the right to develop nuclear weapons, and Israel certain to not remain idle if nuclear proliferation becomes the name of the game.