Full Acceptance of Israel in the Arab World Is Not Here Yet

(JNS) Jonathan S. Tobin - The speech made last week by Egyptian Ambassador to the UN Osama Abdel Khalek denouncing the Jewish state and speaking of Palestinian "martyrs" demonstrated that even the military government in Cairo that regards Israel as a vital ally in its own struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood is afraid that public opinion in Egypt is still far too drenched in Jew-hatred to publicly stand up for its neighbor. The Abraham Accords seemed to demonstrate that a sea change was underway in the Arab and Islamic world. After a century of pure hatred, the consensus among Arabs and Muslims that war against Zionism and the Jews was an integral element of their identity has been broken. Nevertheless, the idea that anti-Israel opinion among Arabs and Muslims is on the way out must be tempered by a sense of realism about the pace of change. Even among those Arab nations that have made peace with Israel, the embrace of Israel is far from wholehearted or really popular. Even if Arab statements at the UN were merely a cynical show, the fact that they feel it is necessary to behave this way is not insignificant. Public opinion in Egypt and Jordan is still heavily anti-Semitic. Popular culture in the Arab world is also still hostile to Israel and Jews. Authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Jordan and in the Gulf don't depend on popular approval. But they are acutely conscious that by getting too close to Israel, they are giving ammunition to radicals backed by Iran who seek their overthrow. Recognizing the persistence of Arab and Muslim hostility to Israel doesn't negate the historic importance of the Abraham Accords. As Jason Greenblatt, the Trump administration's Middle East peace envoy, told me in an interview, the question to ask about the Saudis is not what they haven't done but the distance they have traveled from their former stance of unremitting hostility. Still, the optimistic notion that all the barriers between Israel and the Arab and Muslim worlds are coming down is premature. Jew-hatred is still far more popular than acceptance of Israel. As long as that is true - and the governments that made peace don't reflect the popular will of their peoples - the progress that has already been made towards true peace cannot be considered irreversible.

2022-08-15 00:00:00

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