A new poll by the Washington Institute has found that most citizens of Saudi Arabia still object to the idea of normalizing ties with Israel. Only 20% of Saudis believe that the Abraham Accords will yield positive results for the Middle East. Nevertheless, more than one-in-three Saudis support having economic ties with the Jewish state.
Respondents were asked to reply to the following statement: “If it would help our economy, it would be acceptable to have some business deals with Israeli companies.” Among Saudi participants of the survey, 38% replied positively. In Egypt and Jordan – two Arab countries who have peace agreements with Israel – only around 10% provided affirmative responses.
The survey results were published at a time when Saudi Arabia and Israel have reportedly intensified their relations thanks to American and Bahraini mediation. The U.S. Biden administration is seeking to forge a peace deal between the two countries. A potential agreement, if materialized, would likely involve certain Israeli concessions to the Palestinians and some U.S. security guarantees to the Sunni kingdom.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to the region this week to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday. According to the Times of Israel, Blinken “discussed the possibility of Saudi Arabia normalizing relations with Israel.”
Expanding the circle of peace in the Middle East and stopping Iran have been a top priority for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, when he resumed office back in late December. The concept of the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” has played a key role behind Israel’s peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, but it might not apply as effectively when it pertains to Saudi Arabia.
Iran and Saudi Arabia recently renewed their diplomatic ties, thanks to China’s mediation, after seven years of hostilities. Tehran reopened its embassy in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Tuesday.
Most Saudis, as indicated in the Washington Institute poll, do not favor cooperating with Israel against Iran. Only 18% expressed their agreement with the suggestion that Arab states should cooperate with Israel against shared threats from Iran.
Moreover, an overwhelming majority of 85% of Saudis agreed that “a major American or Israeli military strike against Iran would be too dangerous, and a bad idea for our country.”
That does not mean that Saudis do not view Iran as a threat. The poll showed that 58% consider Iran to be an enemy state and 67% think that the restoration of diplomatic relations with Tehran will produce a negative outcome for the region.
A silver lining for Israel in the poll is the finding that a solid majority of Saudis (76%) also believes that Hamas “firing missiles or rockets against Israel from Gaza” has “negative effects on our region.”
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.