The Israel-Palestine conflict, which has endured for over decades, has deep historical roots. Amid this protracted struggle, Arab nations, particularly those bordering Palestine, have played a significant role. Historically united against foreign influence, these nations, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, formed coalitions and engaged in wars against Israel. However, the dynamics have shifted significantly, resulting in a complex web of geopolitical considerations and internal challenges. This article delves into the current roles and challenges faced by key Arab nations in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Amidst this critical period, Egypt plays a pivotal role, primarily because it shares a crucial crossing (Rafah crossing) with Gaza, not under Israel’s control, allowing aid to reach Gazans directly. However, Egypt faces immense pressure due to its immediate proximity to Gaza. The Egyptian government has its own reasons, including dealing with insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, weak economic conditions, and vital economic interests with Israel (involving 7 billion cubic feet of natural gas imports). Additionally, Egypt is cautious not to jeopardize the peace agreement (The Camp David Accords of 1978) with Israel, as it could negatively impact its economic ties. Furthermore, the country’s poor economic conditions prevent it from accommodating a large number of Palestinian refugees. Importantly, Egypt heavily relies on foreign aid from the US to support its economic and military needs, which might be affected if it takes a stance against Israel.
Regarding Saudi Arabia, historically, it supported the Palestinian cause. However, in today’s world, the dynamics have changed for the kingdom. It has been involved in back channel and covert diplomacy with Israel in order to expand its influence and to develop its economy, for regional cooperation and economic development. Though officially both countries have not declared about their relations but there are covert cooperation going on between both states for mutual benefits. Taking into account the geopolitical consideration, Saudi Arabia want to deter Iran in order to increase its influence in the Middle East. Its stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict, aiming for a peaceful resolution, reflects the influence of normalizing relations with Israel and fostering future cooperation between the nations.
Another significant actor in the region is Lebanon, situated to the north of occupied Palestine. There are substantial risks of escalating into a large-scale war after Hezbollah fires a brigade of rockets into Israeli territory. Its stance on the conflict is clearly in support of Palestinians after Hasbollah leader Nasrullah announced in his speech that they already entered the war on 8 October after Hamas attack on 7th October 2023 against oppressing Zionist regime. He also mocked the hypocrisy of the West regarding its policies, highlighting its deviation from the rule of law it had once established. Despite the harsh consequences it could face, Hezbollah has declared war against Israel, intensifying the already hostile conditions. Lebanon remains steadfast in its stance, having been at war with Israel since 1948.
On Oct. 31, 2023, Brigadier of Yemeni rebel group Houthi declared war against the Zionist regime however there is no official statement of Yemen on the conflict. Since then Houthis have fired a large number of ballistic and wringed missiles along with drones on various Israeli IOF targets in the occupied Palestine. But there are no clear evidences whether they struck the Israeli territory or not.
Jordan was the second country which signed peace agreement with Israel after 1994.Since then, both normalized their economic and diplomatic ties with US efforts. Cooperation levels vary due to regional dynamics. Recently, Jordan recalled its ambassador from Israel, citing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, straining the 29-year-old peace treaty. Jordan was trying to put diplomatic pressure on Israel to end the war crimes in Gaza and to solve the conflict through peaceful means ultimately Israel was not able to take this pressure and is still involved in war.
Iraq has sided with Gazans in this war, adopting a strict stance that perceives the events in the Gaza Strip as genocide. The Iraqi Prime Minister vehemently opposes the displacement of Palestinian people from the Gaza Strip, declaring it illegal. Iraq is now prepared to support Gazans militarily, with Iraqi Hezbollah announcing its readiness for an extended conflict.
Aside from all these states, Iran though not a part of Arab league has a major active role in the Israel war. From supporting the countries like Syria, Yemen, Hezbollah and Iraq against Israel to providing weapons and training to Hamas, every take is against the Israel’s genocide.
But the question here is that whether the world is heading towards a big disaster? There are many chances that the conflict could escalate towards destruction. Before that could happen the Arab states are divided among blocks within themselves. In past due to religious affiliations with Palestinian people these states had a very strong stance of supporting Palestinians people and many of these states hold the same belief today but some of the states have changed their side due to political and economic reasons and these states include UAE (sending aid to Israel) and Saudi Arabia which clearly don’t stick to pro- Israeli stance but from their actions it is evident that on which side they are. The reason for this divide is their dependence on US for different reasons and that is the same case with other countries that are either in debt or their domestic conditions don’t allow them to take part actively.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.