America Is Losing the Arab World and China Is Reaping the Benefits

October 7, 2023, was a watershed moment not just for Israel but for the Arab world. Hamas’s horrific attack occurred just as a new order appeared to be emerging in the region. Three years earlier, four members of the Arab League—Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—had launched processes to normalize their diplomatic relations with Israel. As the summer of 2023 drew to a close, the most important Arab country that still did not recognize Israel, Saudi Arabia, looked poised to do so, too.

Hamas’s assault and Israel’s subsequent devastating military operation in Gaza have curtailed this march toward normalization. Saudi Arabia has stated that it will not proceed with a normalization deal until Israel takes clear steps to facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian state. Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel in November 2023, and a visit to Morocco by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu planned for late 2023 never materialized. Arab leaders have watched warily as their citizens have grown vocally opposed to the war in Gaza. In many Arab countries, thousands have turned out to protest Israel’s war and the humanitarian crisis it has produced. Protesters in Jordan and Morocco have also called for an end to their countries’ respective peace treaties with Israel, voicing frustration that their governments are not listening to the people.

October 7 may turn out to be a watershed moment for the United States, too. Because of the war in Gaza, Arab public opinion has turned sharply against Israel’s staunchest ally, the United States—a development that could confound U.S. efforts not only to help resolve the crisis in Gaza but also to contain Iran and push back against China’s growing influence in the Middle East. Since 2006, Arab Barometer, the nonpartisan research organization we run, has conducted biannual nationally representative opinion surveys in 16 Arab countries, capturing ordinary citizens’ views in a region that has little opinion polling. After the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq, other polls consistently found that few ordinary Arab citizens held positive views of the United States. By 2022, however, their attitudes had improved somewhat, with at least a third of respondents in nearly all countries Arab Barometer surveyed affirming that they held “a very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” opinion of the United States.

Read full article at Foreign Affairs