Middle EastAnalysis

Normalisation between Arab nations and Israel unlikely to proceed quickly

Many say ties will not be forged until there is progress on a two-state solution

Addressing a panel at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said there is an “extraordinary opportunity” in the coming months for Israel to forge ties with the Arab world. “Virtually every Arab country now genuinely wants to integrate Israel into the region to normalise relations . . . to provide security commitments and assurances so that Israel can feel more safe.” He added that it is “more urgent than ever to proceed to a Palestinian state that also ensures the security of Israel.”

As far as the Arabs are concerned, the Gaza war must end and there must be progress towards a Palestinian state before normalisation can proceed. Saudi foreign minister Faisal bin Farhan replied to Blinken by stating: “The only pathway to sustainable security for all of us in the region is through Palestinian self-determination. The Arab states are fully committed to delivering that. They are also fully committed through that to delivering a true partnership with Israel.” He warned that if there is no two-state solution “the next explosion will be worse” than the Gaza war.

Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi said Arabs seek “a future of peace for Palestinians, for Israelis, for everybody”. But he added: “None of us will enjoy peace unless the Palestinians enjoy their legitimate rights to establish their state, freedom and dignity.”

Safadi said “the whole world is now saying the only path forward is a two-state solution”, but the Israelis are doing “everything they can to endanger” it.


Although the Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco established relations with Israel in 2020, a poll conducted by the independent research tool Arab Barometer revealed pre-war public support for rapprochement varied from one-third to 5 per cent depending on the country. Since the war began, rulers have become highly sensitive to public opposition.

Therefore, normalisation is unlikely to proceed quickly. Arab governments have adapted to the dark public mood. Jordan has joined South Africa’s submission to the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza. The Emirates and Algeria have tabled ceasefire resolutions in the UN Security Council. Arab governments have widely publicised humanitarian aid shipments to Gaza.

Israel’s Gaza war has transfixed and traumatised millions of Arabs from the Gulf to the Atlantic. Arab governments have tried to manage the news but have not been able to avoid demonising Israel. Satellite television, social media and mobile phones have made individuals eyewitnesses to Israel’s onslaught on Gaza. Coverage in cafes and homes, and on hand-held devices is all-pervasive and personal. Tens of thousands of Jordanians, Yemenis, Algerians, Syrians, Tunisians, West Bank Palestinians and Moroccans have protested against the war.

In that context, there is no easy path to normalisation with Israel.

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