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Public Opinion on Israel-Palestine is Changing in the Arab World

Public Opinion on Israel-Palestine is Changing in the Arab World

For as long as I can remember, the fate of Palestinians living under Israeli rule or in refugee camps in nearby Arab countries was a central concern for publics in the Arab world. Arab citizens, moreover, remained resolutely opposed to normalizing diplomatic, trade, and other relations with Israel before the latter withdrew from the West Bank and Gaza and permitted the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Recently, James Zogby, a respected Arab-American pollster, discovered through his own surveys in the Middle East that Arab public opinion has shifted rather dramatically. This is how he describes his new and surprising polling results: A “sea change” in Arab public opinion on the importance of the Palestinian issue. For decades, Israel-Palestine were at the top of the Arab public’s priorities, Now, they ranked “in the bottom tier” of concern in every Arab country he polled. “Significant majorities in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE [United Arab Emirates], moreover, felt it would be desirable for some Arab states to pursue normalization [with Israel] even without peace. Opinion was evenly divided in Lebanon, with four out of ten Palestinians also agreeing.” A majority of respondents in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates favored the UAE’s recent decision to recognize Israel and establish diplomatic relations in return for an Israeli commitment to non-annexation of  the West Bank. The deal between the UAE and Israel has led to a significant drop in public support for annexation among Israel Jews. A dramatic Arab peace overture, in other words, has softened Jewish Israeli public opinion towards the Palestinians. Peace is not about to break...