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War on Gaza: Saudis overwhelmingly say Arab nations should cut ties with Israel

Survey finds that 96 percent of Saudis oppose ties with Israel and that Hamas has gained popularity since Israel launched assault on Gaza
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attends a meeting with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on 20 November 2023.
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attends a meeting with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on 20 November 2023 (Pedro Pardo/AFP)

A new poll has found that 96 percent of Saudi nationals believe that Arab countries should cut ties with Israel in response to the war in Gaza, and that the popularity of Hamas has grown significantly amid Israel's devastating military offensive on the embattled territory.

The result of the poll, conducted by the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Affairs, a pro-Israel think tank based in Washington, shows the difficulties the United States faces as it pushes for Saudi Arabia to normalise ties with Israel.

Prior to the war in Gaza, the US was actively working towards achieving an agreement that would see Israel and Saudi Arabia normalise relations.

Such a deal would build upon existing normalisation agreements such as those between Israel and Bahrain, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates which were brokered under the Trump administration.

During an interview with Fox News that aired in September, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated that the two countries were getting closer to such an agreement "every day".

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Since then, however, Riyadh has put a pause on talks of normalisation and has publicised its diplomatic outreach as one that seeks "to stop the ongoing escalation".

While the kingdom has a monarchial system, public opinion plays a factor in the decision-making of Arab leaders, according to analysts.

Friday's survey also found that 40 percent of Saudis expressed positive attitudes toward Hamas, compared with just 10 percent according to a poll carried out months before the war began.

The poll further found that the majority of respondents in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt held favourable views towards Hamas.

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The poll's findings highlight large-scale outrage in the Arab world over Israel's military assault on Gaza, which came in response to the 7 October attack on southern Israel.

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That attack saw 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals killed, and around 240 people taken captive by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.

Israel responded by imposing a full siege on the already blockaded enclave. It then launched a devastating aerial bombing campaign followed by a ground invasion that has killed more than 20,000 Palestinians, the majority of whom are women and children.

As a result, mass protests have erupted across the Arab world in support of the Palestinians in Gaza. In addition to the demonstrations in the streets, citizens across the Middle East are boycotting Israeli-linked businesses.

The survey further found that 87 percent of Saudis believe "Israel is so weak and internally divided that it can be defeated some day".

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