Arab countries should break Israel ties to protest against Gaza war, poll of Saudis finds

Survey of 1,000 Saudis found majority saw war as a victory for 'Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims'

Stickers of the Egyptian Red Crescent and UNRWA as well as the Egyptian and Saudi flags are displayed on a humanitarian aid lorry at Israel's Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip. Getty Images
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Saudis overwhelmingly say Arab countries should break all ties with Israel to protest against its military operations in Gaza, according to a recent poll that also found an increase in support for Hamas.

The survey of 1,000 Saudi citizens was commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and measured how attitudes are shifting due to the Israel-Gaza war. The poll, released on Thursday, covered the period of November 14 to December 6.

According to the survey’s findings, 96 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposal that “Arab countries should immediately break all diplomatic, political, economic and any other contacts with Israel in protest against its military action in Gaza”.

Before the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people and the capture of about 240 hostages, momentum had been growing for Saudi Arabia and Israel to normalise relations. The UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan had already done so.

But efforts to create official ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel have been indefinitely frozen amid Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip, which local authorities say has killed more than 20,000 people, mostly women and children.

A large majority (91 per cent) of those polled agreed with the statement that “despite the destruction and loss of life, this war in Gaza is a win for the Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims”.

The Washington Institute noted that wartime polling is likely to produce volatile results as circumstances shift quickly on the ground.

While the poll found that Hamas remains unpopular among the majority of Saudis, the war nonetheless has seen a boost in support for the militant group.

Whereas in August, only 10 per cent of Saudis supported Hamas, that number leapt to 40 per cent in the period covered by the poll.

Only 16 per cent of Saudis interviewed agreed that “Hamas should stop calling for the destruction of Israel, and instead accept a permanent two-state solution to the conflict based on the 1967 borders”.

Polling done during previous conflicts shows that any boost in Saudi support for Hamas tends to be short-lived, in contrast to countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.

Three quarters of respondents expressed support for Arab diplomatic involvement in “Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking, offering both sides incentives to take more moderate positions”.

When asked: “Regardless of what’s right, there’s no military solution to the conflict with Israel, so there will have to be political negotiations for a Palestinian-Israeli agreement some day”, an even larger majority (86 per cent) agreed.

Another overwhelming majority of Saudis polled (95 per cent) said they did not believe that that Hamas’s attack had been focused on Israeli civilians.

Updated: December 22, 2023, 11:34 PM