Arab foreign ministers meet at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo during an extraordinary session to discuss their stance on Jerusalem and the US decision to relocate its embassy to the holy city, 1 February 2018. Photo: Mohamed El-Shahed/Getty Images
Arab foreign ministers meet at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo during an extraordinary session to discuss their stance on Jerusalem and the US decision to relocate its embassy to the holy city, 1 February 2018. Photo: Mohamed El-Shahed/Getty Images
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Summary

  • The positions of several Arab states towards Israel have evolved greatly in the past 50 years. Four of these states in particular – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and (to a lesser extent) Jordan – could be influential in shaping the course of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
  • In addition to Egypt and Jordan (which have signed peace treaties with Israel), Saudi Arabia and the UAE, among other Gulf states, now have extensive – albeit discreet – dealings with Israel.
  • This evolution has created a new situation in the region, with these Arab states now having considerable potential influence over the Israelis and Palestinians. It also has implications for US positions and policy. So far, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Jordan have chosen not to test what this influence could achieve.
  • One reason for the inactivity to date may be disenchantment with the Palestinians and their cause, including the inability of Palestinian leaders to unite to promote it. However, ignoring Palestinian concerns will not bring about a resolution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, which will continue to add to instability in the region. If Arab leaders see regional stability as being in their countries’ interests, they should be trying to shape any eventual peace plan advanced by the administration of US President Donald Trump in such a way that it forms a framework for negotiations that both Israeli and Palestinian leaderships can accept.