Arab world and the Palestinian statehood challenge

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia did not reciprocate the crisis the way Muslim countries anticipated it would

Momina Saleem Baig March 15, 2024
The writer is from the National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad. She can be reached at


The significant turnaround in the historical Israel-Palestine crisis has led to one of the destructive conflicts in the history of the Middle East. It has remained one of the region’s longest-running hostilities and one of the world’s persistent challenges. Though the dynamics of this conflict have been shifting, international observers have struggled to offer a viable solution. On October 7, 2023, the Palestinian armed resistance group, Hamas, launched a surprise attack on Israel. Israel retaliated by initiating a new offensive war in Gaza, with the Israeli Defence Forces conducting continuous airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. Despite over 150 days passing since the onset of the war, a resolution remains elusive.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the sacred land and the protector of the exalted Mosques of Islam, did not reciprocate the crisis the way Muslim countries anticipated it would; evidently, because of what is manifested as the Saudi-American alliance. The kingdom has been one of the strongest economic partners of the United States in the Middle East. The US has long been providing military protection to Saudi Arabia in exchange for a reliable Saudi oil supply. In recent times, the US has been trying to convince Saudi Arabia to normalise its relations with Israel, but the former didn’t want to get into such a grand scheme unless the US satisfies its major security guarantees in what comes as a defence pact and US support for the Saudi civilian nuclear programme — a non-weapon producing nuclear programme.

UAE’s policy towards Israel shifted with the signing of the Oslo Accords, a US-brokered deal, signed in 2020, under which the UAE established full diplomatic relations with Israel which made it the third Arab state to fully recognise Israel, leaving into question the decades of Arab policy towards Israel. The UAE-Israel relations have strengthened since then in economic realms alongside defence. Abundant numbers of tourists visited the UAE from January 2021 to January 2023. Israeli companies are also engaged in business activities within the Gulf states.

Lebanon always had a secure strategy towards Israel, despite the fact that it did take part in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war but it was also the first Arab League Nation to reveal an inclination toward an armistice treaty with Israel in 1949. There was also a possibility that Lebanon would have signed the Abraham Accords amidst the increasing anti-Iranian sentiment, mostly aiming against Hezbollah — an Iran-backed political and militant group.

Egypt holds a distinctive quality in the region marked by a close relationship between the Sisi regime and Israel. Since the inception of the Camp David Accords in 1978, the relationship between the two nations has evolved beyond diplomatic accord to a mutually advantageous partnership. Ever since Abdel Fattah El–Sisi ascended to the leadership in 2013, Israel has progressed to be a solid collaborator of the regime, involving active Israeli participation in upholding the stability of the regime. As Israel persists in rejecting a call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, clear strains are now surfacing between the two allies for the first time in a decade.

Palestine, an Islamic Arab state, surrounded by Islamic countries on all sides, prompts the question of why these neighbouring Islamic countries have been unsuccessful in bringing an end to this ongoing and deadly conflict. The Republic of South Africa made a historic move during its proceedings at the International Court of Justice, asserting that Israel violated the Genocide Convention through its aggression against Gaza. While South Africa’s action could have set a precedent for other Muslim nations, the reality is that the Muslim world appears divided, with contradictions in their responses to the crisis. Many Muslim countries, driven by national interests, political considerations and domestic influences, have overlooked the fact that Palestine deserves genuine concern. It is high time for collective action on behalf of Palestine.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2024.

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