A new poll published by the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies has revealed that 75 per cent of Arabs see Israel and the United States as the biggest threats to national security.
The Arab Opinion Index surveyed over 18,000 individuals in 11 Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania. The poll conducted face-to-face interviews with the respondents, asking them questions on a range of topics including economics, immigration and attitudes towards regional politics and democracy.
Results showed that 75 per cent of Arabs see Israel as the biggest threat to their national security. The United States was the second most-cited, followed by Iran. On broader questions relating to Israel, 90 per cent of those surveyed see Israel as a major source of instability in the Middle East and disapprove of the various peace treaties signed between Arab states and Israel, including the Oslo Accords, the Camp David Accords and the Wadi Araba Agreement between Israel and Jordan.
Further, 87 per cent of Arabs disapproved of their country recognising Israel, with only eight per cent accepting formal diplomatic recognition. When asked to justify their reasons for this disapproval, almost 32 per cent stated that Israel “is a settler colonialist state and occupies Palestine”. While Arab states neighbouring Israel, for example Egypt and Jordan, have long recognised the state, more recently the willingness of Gulf states to establish ties with Israel has increased. Leading the call has been Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, who has been dubbed by commentators as “the world’s richest Zionist”.
The survey also questioned Arabs on their perceptions of democracy. Results showed that 76 per cent of Arabs believe that democracy is the most appropriate system of governance for their country. However, the survey also revealed that, while a majority support democracy, 32 per cent believe their society is unprepared for such a system.
A major obstacle to this was the freedom to criticise the government, which 37 per cent said was impossible to do. In Palestine, 59 per cent that they were not free to openly criticise their government without fear. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has recently taken a number of steps to crack down on political dissent and criticism, including the passing of its Electronic Crimes Law earlier this year.
Closely linked to perceptions of democracy is the attitude of those surveyed towards the Arab Spring of 2011. The survey asked: “Back in 2011, several Arab countries witnessed revolutions
and popular protests, in which people took to the streets in demonstrations. What is your assessment of that?” The results were somewhat mixed, with 49 per cent considering the uprisings to have been positive and 39 per cent considering them to have been negative. On the question of whether the Arab Spring achieved its aims, 34 per cent believe that the Arab Spring has been aborted before the revolutions could achieve their aims. This marked an increase in pessimism regarding the outcomes of the Spring on previous years’ surveys, which the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies suggests may be as a result of “creeping authoritarianism and the spread of chaos in many of the Arab Spring countries.”