Regional tensions add to concern

Varying degrees of scepticism mark attitudes about a possible “coexistence” between Arabs and Iran.
Sunday 16/12/2018
Palestinian youth run carrying Palestinian flags by the barbed wire fence along the border with Israel east of Gaza City, December 7. (AFP)
Palestinian youth run carrying Palestinian flags by the barbed wire fence along the border with Israel east of Gaza City, December 7. (AFP)

Compounding the anxieties of Arab populations are regional factors that cause tension. Among them, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Iran’s threat to peace and security in the region.

In the Arab world at large, scepticism, if not plain hostility, marks the attitude towards any idea of an Arab-Israeli “partnership” to fight extremism of Iranian interference. Still, more than one-third of respondents in the UAE (42%), Egypt (40%), Lebanon (38%), Saudi Arabia (37%) and Iraq (36%) said “should Israel end the occupation and fulfil the terms of the Arab Peace Initiative, such a partnership would be desirable.”

The Palestinian population is divided over a possible solution to the conflict with Israel. A large segment said they see no light at the end of the tunnel. About 50% said they “don’t believe a settlement between Palestinians and Israelis is possible.”

Strong resentment of Iranian designs permeates Arab public opinion. Varying degrees of scepticism mark attitudes about a possible “coexistence” between Arabs and Iran. These vary from 74% in Tunisia and 70% in Egypt to 36% in Saudi Arabia and 34% in Jordan.

There is also a pervasive wariness about Iran’s nuclear activities and its ballistic missile programme. The poll shows that “a verifiable Iranian commitment to end its ballistic missile programme” is favoured by majorities in five Arab countries, including 93% in Egypt, 84% in Tunisia, 83% in Saudi Arabia, 81% in the UAE and 60% in the Palestinian territories.

6