The Hamas attack of 7 October 2023 was a turning point in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Despite the unsympathetic attitude held by several Arab governments toward Hamas, the massive number of Palestinian deaths and casualties reflects the vindictive strategy of Israel, which makes it hard for Arab governments to pursue any potential agreement with the Jewish state.
Since the war started in Gaza, several media outlets and research centres have concluded that Hamas timed its attack to hinder any potential Arab efforts for the normalisation of relations with Israel.
Before 7 October, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince stated that his country was steadily moving toward that. Israelis were eager for an agreement with Riyadh, viewing it as an effective strategy to isolate Hamas from the Arab world.
If it ever happens, normalisation with Saudi Arabia would be a major victory for Israel, akin to the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978 with Egypt.
The recognition of Israel as a sovereign state is a taboo among most Muslim and Arab countries. However, this doesn’t mean that all Muslim countries hold this attitude. In March 1949, for example, Turkey recognised the State of Israel and sent its diplomatic mission to Tel Aviv in January 1950. On its part, Iran recognised the State of Israel on 14 March 1950. Turkey and Iran were the strongest Muslim-majority countries.
However, recognition from a major Arab country was more valuable for the Zionist state. That was precisely what occurred on 26 March 1979 when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed a treaty accompanied by US President Jimmy Carter.
Just like in Judaism and Christianity, occupied Jerusalem is a sacred site for Muslims. However, the plight of Palestinians is an Arab issue more than a Muslim one.
There are several factors behind this assumption. The Arabs used the term Nakba – which means catastrophe or disaster in Arabic – to describe the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. It was a catastrophe in every sense of the word, as the Zionist militias and the new Israeli army violently expelled Arabs (Palestinians, both Muslims and Christians) from their homes and homeland.
Immediately, war broke out, as nearby Arab nations tried to help Palestinians retake their lands, but Israel emerged victorious and imposed the reality of its Jewish state in the heart of the Levant.
The following years saw the emergence of a pan-Arab discourse led by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who used the Palestinian issue as a key driver of Arab unity. This further defined the conflict as an Arab versus Israeli conflict rather than a Muslim versus Jewish one.
This explains the harsh Arab backlash toward Egypt for its peace treaty with Israel, compared to those of Turkey and Iran.