May 22, 2021 | The Hill

Hamas violence meets Gulf silence

May 22, 2021 | The Hill

Hamas violence meets Gulf silence

Excerpt

Eight months since the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain shocked the world by announcing formal relations with Israel, diplomatic ties are facing their most severe test after the eruption of war in Gaza. The Gulf states were relatively muted in their criticism of Israel. Some might see that as a step forward. But their refusal to condemn Hamas, not to mention the terrorist group’s sponsors in Tehran, shows that more work is needed to strengthen this nascent alliance.

At the onset of the crisis, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan — all of which normalized relations with the Jewish state last year — criticized Israel. Sudan rebuked Israeli moves as “coercive action,” the UAE called on Israel to “take responsibility for de-escalation” at the Al-Aqsa mosque, and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI noted that Israeli “violations” could “fuel tensions.” Bahrain punched the hardest, asking the Israeli government “to stop these rejected provocations against the people of Jerusalem.”

Gulf states that did not normalize with Israel also weighed in. Saudi Arabia “rejected” Israel’s plan to evict Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. The kingdom also called for Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders. Oman and Qatar, one of Hamas’ top financial patrons, did the same. Kuwait, interestingly, issued a second statement after public outcry over its original, somewhat milder stance; Kuwaitis subsequently staged a sit-in outside the parliament to protest normalization with the Jewish state and evince support for the Palestinians.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is senior vice president at Foundation for Defense of Democracies (@FDD), where Varsha Koduvayur is a senior research analyst specializing in Gulf Arab affairs. Follow them on Twitter @JSchanzer and @varshakoduvayur. FDD is a nonpartisan think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues.

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Issues:

Gulf States Israel Palestinian Politics