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Arab social media opposition to Israel normalization drops 20%

Strategic Affairs Minister Michael Biton praised the shift as being “on the verge of a new age in the Middle East”

Palestinians hold crossed out posters depicting Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against Bahrain's move to normalize relations with Israel, in the central Gaza Strip Sep. 12, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

Arab opposition to normalization with Israel on social media has dropped almost 20%, according to a new study released by Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry.

Strategic Affairs Minister Michael Biton praised the shift as being “on the verge of a new age in the Middle East.” 

According to the report, opposition to the Abraham Accords with Israel declined from 94% in the summer 2020 to 75% in November, a drop of nearly 20%. Surprisingly, the report found that the decline in opposition was also recorded in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and other regional groups traditionally committed to the delegitimization of the Jewish state.

While the PA initially condemned the Abraham Accords, opposition in practice declined after Ramallah decided to resume security and civic ties with Jerusalem in November. By the time Morocco and Israel agreed to normalize bilateral relations in December, Ramallah remained mute and did not condemn Morocco. 

The authors of the report partly credit influential regional players, such as the UAE for the decline in normalization opposition with Israel. While the UAE government warmly embraced ties with Jerusalem, it simultaneously stressed how commercial and cultural relations with Israel benefit the entire Middle East. In September, for instance, 75% of social media users in the UAE reportedly argued that the UAE’s security was enhanced as a result of the normalization agreement with Israel. Two months later, 75% in the UAE viewed relations with Israel in a positive light without any need to justify it with concrete reasons. 

In other words, the normalization process with Israel is currently enjoying a regional tailwind.

The ministry report does warn that anti-normalization groups are likely to launch smear campaigns against different institutions in order to discourage other governments and organizations from establishing formal relations with the Israeli government and Israeli organizations. 

However, with still around 75% social media opposition to normalization with Israel remain there is still much work ahead to build peaceful and commercial bridges between Israel and the Sunni Arab world that extend beyond formal government agreements. 

Biton outlined the challenge that the ministry faces. 

“The task now facing the ministry is to actively strengthen the perception of the State of Israel among the Arab public, especially those which have normalization agreements with us,” Biton said.

The task of efficiently promoting regional reconciliation requires multilateral regional efforts. Earlier in January, Morocco became the second Arab state committed to combating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Backed by the Moroccan government, El Mehdi Boudra, the president of Association Mimouna organization, signed an agreement with the U.S. State Department to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

In October last year, the Kingdom of Bahrain became the first Arab state to sign such an agreement. Its purpose is to normalize Arab acceptance of not only Israel but of Zionism, the Jewish national liberation movement that preceded the reestablishment of the Jewish state. Referring to the Moroccan Jewish Mimouna Passover tradition, the Association Mimouna was established in 2007 by Muslims who seek to preserve Morocco’s Jewish heritage.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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