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ACRPS' wide-ranging 2019-2020 Arab Opinion survey reveals huge opposition to normalisation with Israel Open in fullscreen

Florence Dixon

ACRPS' wide-ranging 2019-2020 Arab Opinion survey reveals huge opposition to normalisation with Israel

Yemenis demonstrate against normalisation between UAE and Israel [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 October, 2020

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Just 13% of Sudanese people and 6% of Saudis are in favour of recognising Israel, a wide-ranging survey of Arab political attitudes has revealed, despite their regimes verging on normalisation.
A comprehensive opinion poll conducted across thirteen Arab countries shows opposition to normalisation with Israel is widespread, including in countries on the verge of establishing ties with the Jewish state.

The 2019-2020 Arab Opinion Index (AOI), published by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies on Tuesday, indicates a significant discord between popular sentiments and government rhetoric on the question of Palestine specifically in Saudi Arabia and Sudan, where the political elite has been making overtures to Israel recently.

Three quarters of the survey's 28,000 respondents said they thought the Palestinian cause concerns all Arabs, not just Palestinians, however this rose to 89% among respondents in Saudi Arabia, the second highest among the countries surveyed.

Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of Arabs - 88% according to the survey - disapprove of their government recognising Israel. Just 6% of respondents said they would accept formal diplomatic recognition.

Notably, only 13% of Sudanese respondents were in favour of their country recognising Israel, with 79% rejecting such a move.

Sudan has been widely touted as the next Arab country to establish ties with Israel.

The country's deputy head of state, General Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, said on Friday that Sudan "needs Israel."

"Israel is developed. The entire world works with Israel. For development, for agriculture - we need Israel," Dagalo said in a TV interview, adding that any agreement would comprise "relations, not normalisation." 

However Dagalo did not clarify what the difference between relations and normalisation would be.

Dr Dana El Kurd, a researcher at the Arab Center who worked on the AOI told The New Arab that "the idea that there is some agreement among political elites [on normalisation with Israel] doesn't reflect public opinion."

"In certain countries, the elite [who support normalisation] are very unrepresentative and very much a minority," she added.

The survey was not carried out in UAE or Bahrain, two countries which in September became the first Gulf states to formalise ties with Israel.
In certain countries, the elite are very unrepresentative and very much a minority
- Dana El Kurd
Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia only 6% of respondents said they agreed to the recognition of Israel, with 65% saying they rejected it.

Almost a third of Saudis refused to anwer the question of the recognition of Israel, indicating they felt pressured by the current circumstances not to speak out against the government.

Former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to the US Bandar bin Sultan on Monday became the highest profile royal to indicate his support for normalisation.

In a dramatic interview on state-owned television, the prince lambasted the Palestinian leadership as "failures" using "reprehensible" rhetoric in their rejection of Arab states' normalisation agreements.

Read also: Normalisation with Israel: The view from the Arab Maghreb countries

Respondents cites as Israel's racism towards the Palestinians and its colonialist, expansionist policies as means as reasons to oppose its recognition.

Notably, the rate of Arabs opposing recognition of Israel has risen steadily since 2015.

In respect to Israel's foreign policy, the overwhelming majority of Arabs surveyed (90%) consider Israel the country that poses the greatest threat to collective Arab security.

The AOI combined findings from interviews conducted between November 2019 and September 2020 across Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar. It surveyed Arab citizens on various other issues including democratisation and the Arab Spring, the role of religion in the state, and the economy, among other issues.

The results can be found here.

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