A new opinion poll has found that a majority of Arabs consider Israel and the US as the biggest threat to regional stability despite efforts by their rulers to portray Iran as a risk.
The poll, conducted by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Qatar, showed that above 75 percent of Arabs consider Israel and the US as the top two threats to their national security.
It also held that the Palestinian cause was an Arab one, dealing a blow to efforts by some Arab leaders to relegate the issue to a standoff between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Persian Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have recently begun to court Israel more overtly as they have tried to whip up a surge of animosity towards Iran.
The survey, however, showed that an overwhelming majority of respondents – 87 percent – disapproved of their home countries recognizing Israel. Ninety percent called Israel a source of instability in the region.
Asked to elaborate, many cited “Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians and its colonial policies,” the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal reported, citing the poll’s results.
The study, known as the Arab Opinion Index, was based on interviews with more than 18,000 Arab citizens in 11 countries and its results were published on Thursday.
For the first time since 2011, when the center started carrying out the study, pollsters had a difficult time gauging Saudi citizens’ opinions on Palestine.
When asked about Palestine, about 36 percent of the Saudis said they did not know or declined to answer, in contrast to five percent in the rest of the countries polled.
According to the report, Saudi Arabia’s repressive domestic political atmosphere coupled with the ascension of Mohammed bin Salman to the position of crown prince as well as the regional shift in Persian Gulf-Israeli relations have affected the way Saudis engaged with the survey.
Bin Salman, who has been trying to portray himself as a reformer, controversially said earlier in the year that Israelis were entitled to their “own land,” and that Palestinians should either accept “peace proposals” or “shut up”.
In the poll, 87 percent said they held a negative view of US policy towards Palestine.
Washington is about to unveil a “peace plan” aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without negotiating with the Palestinians.
Last year, US President Donald Trump recognized the occupied holy city of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” and later relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to the city.
The survey found that 81 percent of Arabs perceived US foreign policy towards war-ravaged Syria negatively, as did 82 percent on Iraq.
The Arab Opinion Index, which has been published yearly since 2011, has become a barometer of Arab public opinion from Lebanon to Mauritania on issues ranging from local economy to global foreign affairs.