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Gulf population overwhelmingly opposed to normalization with Israel

Jerusalem24 – The percentage of the population in favor of normalizing relations with Israel in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates has significantly dropped over the past year, according to a new poll from the Washington Institute.

The UAE and Bahrain signed the so-called Abraham Accords in August 2020, fully normalizing relations with Israel. Other Arab states have (at least publicly) refused to follow suit, most recently last weekend at a Jeddah summit attended by US President Joe Biden.

A previous Washington Institute poll from November 2020 – in the months following the signing of the accords – show “the relative optimism exhibited by a significant percentage of Emiratis, Bahrainis, Saudis, and even some Egyptians.” Attitudes in the UAE and Bahrain were evenly split as to whether they saw the agreement in a positive or negative light. Outside the signatory countries, 40% of Saudis and Qataris also supported the Accords.

Less than two years later, the percentage of those who see the agreement in a positive light hovers between 19% and 25% for Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE.

The percentage of those in Lebanon who see them in a “very negative” light has increased from 41% in November 2020 to 66% this March, while support in Egypt has dropped from about a quarter to 13%.

Attitudes in Jordan have evinced the least amount of change, with support hovering around 12% since 2020.

The polls included Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. When asked in June 2022, a full half (48%) of East Jerusalemites said they viewed the Abraham Accords in at least a somewhat positive light. 58% of West Bankers and just 39% of Gazans expressed negative opinions on the matter – fewer by far even than the 71% of Emiratis. Namely, this is because a significant minority of Palestinians remain undecided on the issue: 17% of West Bankers and 27% of Gazans report that they “haven’t heard enough” to answer the question.

In contrast, opinions regarding sub-state business and sports relations with Israelis have become more varied across the Arab world. When first polled in July 2020, just months prior to the September 15 announcement, attitudes more or less aligned between the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. In all populations, at least 80% rejected such a proposal. A further 50% of Saudis and 47% of Emiratis strongly disagreed with allowing such ties.

With the exception of Kuwait, disapproval rates of allowing business or sports ties with Israelis now edge closer to half (Bahrain – 58%, KSA – 60%, UAE – 55%). Moreover, support is trending incrementally upwards in some cases – inching up in the UAE by about six points from July 2021 to March 2022, with 43% now supporting the proposition.

In contrast, opposition to allowing business or sports ties with Israelis remains at 85% in Egypt and 87% in Jordan despite longstanding official relations. Populations of countries lacking any relations with Israel – formal or otherwise – are even more vehemently opposed: 94% of Kuwaitis and 93% of Lebanese disagreed with the notion, while a further 77% of Lebanese and 88% of Kuwaitis strongly reject it.

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