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Gulf Israeli Relations between Government Normalization and Public Opinion


Gulf Israeli relations were the unspoken secret behind the news reports that Israeli sports teams visited various Gulf states, or many reports about some Gulf states buying Israeli-made technology. However, no one expected the sudden “normalization” with the UAE and Bahrain given that the entire Arab World believed that Arab leaders, especially those in the Gulf tied to the Arab Initiative, a Saudi-made peace plan offered to the Israelis and endorsed by all Arab countries in 2002.

While the region is desperate for a peace deal, public opinion in the Gulf is not necessarily ready for normalization. Israel has not made peace with the Palestinians. Palestinians are still living under occupation. And the threat of annexation is growing despite the recent statement putting it on hold.

In the recent months, Israel announced plans to further annex almost one-third of the West Bank including large portions of the Jordan Valley. Originally Israeli PM Netanyahu set his annexation plans for July. However, he used the COVID19 crisis and Trump administration objections to delay the project.  However, in the same week of the announcement of the UAE’s normalization with Israel, Netanyahu affirmed his commitment to annexing the West Bank.

Despite the rising frustration among Palestinians and the Arab public, especially in light of the potential annexations, Israel had begun to forge stronger relationships with many Gulf countries that have significantly altered the fabric of politics within the region. Israel has also maintained longstanding communication channels with Qatar, Oman, in addition to the UAE and Bahrain, mainly for security cooperation against Iran.

How much does Gulf public opinion diverge from governments’ normalization with Israel? What does normalization offer for increased trade, cultural and economic relations between Gulf states and Israel? Are investors in Israel and the UAE ready to seek investments in the other country? How does normalization impact future negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Would civil society in the Gulf resist normalization with Israel? How does the Israeli public view normalization with any of the GCC countries? Does the threat coming from Iran persuade Gulf states’ public opinion to accept Israel as an ally in the face of Iranian missiles threatening their cities?

Featured Speakers: Ambassador Patrick Theros (moderator), Dr. Aaron David Miller, Dr. Mohamed Ghanem Alrumaihi, Dr. Shira Efron, and Dr. Khalid Saffuri.

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