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June 18, 2019 No.
8125

Saudi Twitter Poll Finds 33% In Favor Of Relations With Israel, Versus 47% Against

The issue of normalizing relations with Israel is occasionally debated in the Saudi media, especially in light of the threat posed to both countries by Iran. Recently, this debate resurfaced on Twitter, after Saudi journalist Sukina Al-Meshekhis set up a poll on her page asking her followers whether they supported the Gulf states maintaining good relations with Israel.[1] The poll was answered by thousands, with 33% answering "yes", 47% answering "no", and 20% choosing a third, noncommittal, option. Many users, especially in Saudi Arabia, also commented on the question posed by the poll, expressing positions for and against rapprochement with Israel. Those in favor argued that Israel's existence is a fact, that it is interested in peace, that the Palestinian themselves coexist with it and that Saudis should visit it. Some also stated that Israel, unlike Arab countries, actually fights Iran. Those against maintaining good relations with Israel wrote that its crime of occupying Palestinian lands and its expansionist aspirations cannot be tolerated.

It should be noted that, in the recent years, the Saudi media has published no few expressions of support for Israel and calls to establish relations with it, alongside articles that opposed this and harshly attacked Israel and its policies.[2]

The following are details about the Twitter poll, and a sampling of the responses it evoked.

Sukina Al-Meshekhis's Twitter Poll

The poll set up by Saudi journalist Sukina Al-Meshekhis, who resides in the Emirati city of Dubai and writes a column in the Saudi daily Al-Yawm, asked: "Do you support Gulf countries maintaining good relations with Israel and treating it as [just another] country in the Middle East?" Despite being active for only 24 hours, it elicited 5,342 responses, with 33% voting in favor of relations with Israel, 47% voting against, and 20% choosing to "wait for the results [of the poll]."  


The poll set up by Sukina Meshikhes on her Twitter page

Al-Meshekhis herself has expressed support for Saudi Arabia normalizing its relations with Israel. In a July 2018 column in the government daily Al-Yawm, she called on the Arab states to take courageous steps and make concessions in order to advance the goal of peace with Israel. She argued that the Arab collective interest "requires rapprochement and understandings with Israel" and that the Arabs must be more pragmatic.[3]

In a June 2, 2019 column, Al-Meshekhis criticized the Palestinians for their stubborn rejection of various peace initiatives over the years, adding that the Arabs are entitled to outline a peace settlement with Israel, because this issue concerns them as well. She wrote: "If the [Palestinian] issue concerns all Arabs, then the Arabs have a right to outline the peace [plan] with Israel rather than leave everything to the Palestinian leadership – for [this leadership] is not sufficiently qualified to achieve peace and to seriously consider the necessary conditions for [attaining] the peace to which the Palestinians and Arabs aspire. Had these [Palestinian] leaders had the courage of [the late Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat, they would have taken a wise and serious step towards peace at every opportunity from [the signing of the]  Camp David [Accords] until today."[4]

Responses In Favor Of Normalization: Israel Is A Fact; The Israeli People Want Peace

As noted, 33% of the respondents voted in favor of good relations with Israel. Many also commented, stressing that Israel wants peace and calling to cooperate with it. Some also noted that Iran and Qatar have done Saudi Arabia much more harm than Israel. Among these respondents was Saudi intellectual and researcher 'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Hakim, the former director of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies in Jeddah, who frequently writes in support of Israel and has even visited it.[5] He commented: "[I am] certainly [in favor of relations with Israel], since peace between the Gulf states and Israel is a humane objective and a political necessity. In order to achieve peace between the peoples, which will lead to peace between the states, visits to Israel must be possible, and then Gulf  citizens who visit Israel will comprehend the truth about Israeli society [and discover] that it is peace loving. I sensed this myself when I visited Israel.[6]


Abd Al-Hamid Al-Hakim's tweet

Saudi user Muhammad Sa'ud, likewise a known supporter of Israel, who writes his user name in both Arabic and Hebrew, expressed firm support for ties with Israel, stating: "Yes, I am in favor, and strongly so. Our hopes for prosperity, progress and thriving depend on openness to the other. Coexistence with the other is an important objective. Yes to peace, yes to coexistence, yes to cooperation with Israel. [7]


Muhammad Sa'ud's tweet

Saudi user Sultan Aal Swelem, tweeting from Riyadh, explained that he supports establishing ties with Israel because this country, unlike Qatar and Iran, does not harm Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. He wrote: "Yes [to relations], because Israel has not harmed Saudi Arabia and the Gulf like Iran and Qatar have done! Israel's goals are out in the open and it conceals nothing, whereas Qatar and Iran are more evil than evil! Our sole problem with Israel is its occupation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Although Saudi Arabia feels solidarity with Palestine, the Saudi state and nation have been spared no abuse and invective [by the Palestinians]".[8] Saudi user Bandar Al-Moghtarib, who supports the Saudi regime and the reforms of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Sultan in his posts, tweeted: "Israel is a fact of life that should be accepted. It is a country that seeks peace with the Gulf states and invites us to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque and tour Israel in general."[9]


Bandar Al-Moghtarib's tweet

Saudi user Raneem, likewise a supporter of the Saudi regime, was in favor of establishing relations with Israel, tweeting: "If the Palestinians themselves coexist with Israel and with its advanced society, so should we..."[10]

User Ziyad, who tweets from Riyadh and frequently comments on issues on the Saudi political and social agenda, qualified his support for relations with Israel, saying that this decision is up to the Saudi state: "For some time now I have been more open than ever [to the idea] of rapprochement [with Israel. However,] this requires the consent of the state. If it normalizes [relations with Israel], I will do the same, and if does not, I will be unable to do so."[11]

Qatari user 'Aisha noted the substantial shift in Gulf public opinion on the issue of normalizing relations with Israel, tweeting: "Only a few years ago, 99% would have voted against normalization, [but] now look how many people are in favor. Many are sick and tired of the [Palestinian] cause and of the spouting of slogans in its name."[12]

Saudis Against Normalization: No To Acceptance Of The Occupation; Israel's Expansionist Ambitions Reach All The Way To Mecca

However, the majority of respondents (47%) objected to establishing ties with Israel, mainly on the grounds of its policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Saudi writer and poet Fahad Bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz Bin Jumah expressed concern  that normalization would imply acceptance of the occupation of Palestinian land, and would encourage other countries to follow suit. He tweeted: "I think Israel stole an Arab country, namely Palestine, which we all love and hold dear. Accepting relations with it means accepting the occupation. This [may encourage] other countries to do the same.[13]


Fahad Bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz Bin Jumah's tweet

User Jojo, from the city of Abha in southwestern Saudi Arabia, likewise objected to accepting the occupation and voiced concern about Israeli expansionism. She tweeted: "No. Israel remains a criminal entity that occupies Arab land and Muslim holy sites... Normalization [with this entity] means recognizing it as a state and accepting its crime. The land is Palestinian and Arab, and will remain so. Israel has expansionist ambitions [that reach] all the way to Mecca, and they have a book that speaks of this, titled Return to Mecca. Anyone who respects... his homeland and holy places will not support [normalization with Israel]."[14]

Another Saudi user, tweeting from France, also ascribed expansionist ambitions to Israel, and called it a cancerous entity, tweeting: "Ms. Sukina, do you think Israel's dreams stop at normalization? Israel is a country that has never curbed, and will never curb, its expansionist plans... This entity is a cancer that must be stopped before it reaches you."[15] User 'Ammar wrote from Riyadh: "I do not yearn [for normalization with Israel], and with Allah's help this will never happen. Nobody believes a thief, no matter how much he protests his innocence."[16]


Ammar's tweet

Sudanese user Abu-Muhammad, who frequently tweets against the Saudi regime, emphasized his hostility to the Jews and anyone seeking their friendship, while quoting an antisemitic hadith. He commented: "May Allah curse the Jews and all those who love them. The Arab rulers are useless, and have no opinion. We await the Muslim army, and will kill the [Jews] on the day when stones and trees shall speak.[17] Until then we renounce before Allah all those who draw close to them and love them."[18]

 

[1] Twitter.com/sukinameshekhis, June 8, 2019.

[4] Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia), June 2, 2019.

[6] Twitter.com/hakeem970, June 9, 2019.

[7] Twitter.com/mohsaud08, June 8, 2019.

[8] Twitter.com/sultanalswelem, June 9, 2019.

[9] Twitter.com/iijjt, June 8, 2019.

[10] Twitter.com/Raneem11111, June 8, 2019.

[11] Twitter.com/izyad_9, June 8, 2019.

[12] Twitter.com/Ayse36623869, June 8, 2019.

[13] Twitter.com/fahadbinjumah1, June 8, 2019.

[14]  Twitter.com/W_8a8, June 8, 2019.

[15] Twitter.com/alraqi_ksa, June 8, 2019.

[16] Twitter.com/ammar1415, June 8, 2019.

[17] The reference is to Judgment Day, according to the well-known hadith that says: "Judgment Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them. The Jews will hide behind stones and trees, and the stones and trees will call: O Muslim, o servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him - except for the gharqad tree, which is the tree of the Jews."

[18] Twitter.com/mou4sms, June 9, 2019