Arab Leaders, Seeing Hamas as Worse Than Israel, Stay Silent on Gaza

Following the military ouster of the Islamist government in Cairo last year, Egypt has led an emerging coalition of Arab states — including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — that has, through its silence, effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, reports The New York Times.

"The Arab states' loathing and fear of political Islam is so strong that it outweighs their allergy to Benjamin Netanyahu," the prime minister of Israel, said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington.

Although Egypt had traditionally been the go-between in talks with Hamas, the government in Cairo this time surprised Hamas by publicly proposing a cease-fire agreement that met most of Israel’s demands and none from the Palestinian group. Hamas was tarred as intransigent when it immediately rejected it, and Cairo has continued to insist that its proposal remains the starting point for any further discussions.

Egypt’s Arab allies praised the proposal. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt the next day to commend it in a statement that cast no blame on Israel for Gaza bloodshed.

Egyptian officials have directly or implicitly blamed Hamas instead of Israel for Palestinian deaths in the fighting. And the pro-government Egyptian news media has continued to rail against Hamas as a tool of a regional Islamist plot to destabilize Egypt and the region.

Israel has emerged for the moment tacitly supported by the leaders of the conservative Arab states as an ally in their common fight against rising political Islam.

Egypt and other Arab states, especially the Persian Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are also finding themselves allied with Israel in a common opposition to Iran, a rival regional power that has a history of funding and arming Hamas.

For Israel, the change in the Arab states has been relatively liberating.

“The reading here is that, aside from Hamas and Qatar, most of the Arab governments are either indifferent or willing to follow the leadership of Egypt,” said Martin Kramer, president of Shalem College in Jerusalem and an American-Israeli scholar of Islamist and Arab politics. “No one in the Arab world is going to the Americans and telling them, ‘Stop it now,’ ” as Saudi Arabia did, for example, in response to earlier Israeli crackdowns on the Palestinians, he said. “That gives the Israelis leeway.”


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