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Arabs Who Condemn And Defend Israel: The Rise Of An Entente?

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April 13, 2024, Iran’s attempted retaliation against Israel marks a watershed moment in the history of contemporary Middle East that might bring Arab monarchies and Israel ever closer than before.

Indeed, major Arab conservative monarchies seem to have entered an unwritten Entente with Israel against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Despite all their condemnations of Israel’s operation in Gaza and its tragic humanitarian consequences, the escalation of conflict between Israel and the Iranian regime may convince the major Arab monarchies in the Middle East that they would rather rise to stop the assault on Israel by Iran and its proxies than sit idly by. Instead of submitting to a balance of terror by Iran and its proxies, they may very well choose to strike a balance of containment and stability. Understandably, such an argument runs counter to a somewhat prevailing view of Hamas’ 7 October attack on Israel convinced must have stalled any normalization between the Arab monarchies in the region and Israel for a long time to come.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Arab and Israeli officials in a conference in Israel. March 2022

A tour d’horizon of the events of the past few years is thus in order. As Israeli Saudi negotiations seemed to have dragged on between 2022 and June 2023, a class of Abraham Accords skeptics began to emerge. Some argued that the accords had lost their luster and others found them to have become a dead end. In the wake of Hamas 7 October 2023 attack on Israel and Israel’s massive operation against Hamas in Gaza, the members of the same school of thought that had written off “the Abraham Accords” as practically a failure began enunciating the obituary of the short-lived rapprochement between these Arab States and Israel. Jordanian monarchy’s vehement condemnation of Israel as well as the nuanced condemnation of the Arab League indeed convinced many that the Hamas attack, orchestrated directly or indirectly by Iran and its proxies, had managed to nail the coffin of compromise and reconciliation. Many proponents of the same school of thought continued to voice their skepticism about the success of the ongoing US shuttle diplomacy between Arabia Saudi and Israel whose express purpose was to keep the normalization negotiations between the two countries alive despite the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza.

To be charitable to these pundits, Israel’s struggle to entrap Hamas’ top commanders is yet to yield success. Moreover, the negotiations between Israel and Hamas for the release of the remainder 133 Israeli hostages, through the mediation of Qatar and other Arab states in the region, have stalled for months.

President Joe Biden in Saudi Arabia meeting with Mohammed Bin Salman. July 15, 2022

As most pundits were debating the worsening of relations between US president Biden and Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu over Israel’s possible attack on Rafah in southern Gaza matters between Israel and the Iranian proxies came to a head. After a series of strikes against Iranian proxies’ top commanders in late March, Israel turned a definite corner in its conflict with these proxies as it allegedly levelled the consular annex of the Iranian regime’s embassy in Damascus on 1 April 2024 eliminating top Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp commanders.

At this point, much commentary was dispensed by various pundits from left to the right of standard journalist spectrum speculating that Israel’s attack could further widen the gap between the Arab states and Israel. In fact, many of these pundits argued that Israel’s attack could bring the Arab countries to the Iranian regime’s side as they condemned the attack and urged the Iranian regime to exercise restraint.

Yet, on April 13, 2024, after signaling its intention to direct a retaliatory strike from the Iranian soil against Israel, the Iranian regime launched a rather long-winded mixture of kamikaze drones, cruise, and ballistic missiles towards Israel. In coordination with their patron, the Iranian allied regional proxies at once launched projectiles of all types towards Israel. Israel by the afternoon of the same day declared that over 99 percent of the devices had been intercepted and destroyed. Many of them had in fact been eliminated even before they reached the Israeli air space.

In addition to the US, France, and UK that engaged their air defences and air forces in defence of Israel, several Arab countries did at once engage their air defences against such projectiles as they were discovered to be using these countries’ air space. However, with the exception of Jordan, all these Arab countries have been silent about their true role in thwarting the swarm that Iran and its proxies unleashed towards Israel. Even the Jordanian King Abdullah cited the principle of “raison d’état” to justify his country’s intervention: “Jordan won’t be an arena for a regional war”. Saudi Arabia’s silence about its possible action against the Yemeni projectiles that flew through its air space to reach Israel is all too conspicuous. It is highly likely that the Kingdom did engage its air defence to shoot down some of the Houthi’s projectiles. Despite such news, many of the Abraham Accords skeptics continue to insist that the Arab countries may distance themselves from US and Israel ever further to shield themselves from the vengeance of Iran and its proxies.

All in all, the Iranian “attempted retaliation” has provided a litmus test for the rigour of the Abraham Accords like no other. And irrespective of Biden’s administration attempts to de-escalate tensions with Iran and prevent an all-out regional war between Iran and Israel, the Arab monarchies that endured a bloody war with the Yemeni Houthis are justified to be wary of the Iranian drone and missile technology in the aftermath of its attempted retaliation against Israel. In a decade or so, memoirs or archival documents may reveal that Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain indeed actively shot down many of the projectiles that were launched towards Israel by Iran and its proxies. Their silence as to their instrumentality in thwarting the Iranian attack is all too comprehensible. They do not wish to come across to the Arab Public Opinion as the defenders of the Israeli state that they have been collectively condemning for the commission of crimes against humanity in Gaza since October 2023.

As actions speak louder than words, the likelihood of the Arab states’ participation in thwarting the Iranian retaliation speaks volumes about which “entity” they perceive to pose the greatest threat to the peace and security of the region: Iran’s Shia imperium and its armed proxies. In the meantime, pundits who have hitherto written off both the Abrham Accords and the Saudi Israeli rapprochement may wish to reconsider their previous “analyses.” Confirmation bias is an odd beast in international relations that preys on those who constantly seek to adjust “facts” to “confirm” the constant relevance of frameworks that have long been rendered obsolete. Recent events establish that Israel and the Arab states of the Middle East are members of a security military Entente against Iran’s Shia Imperium for all intents and purposes. Whether or not this Entente will ever be formalized is just a matter of time.