(November 17, 2020 / JNS) In a study released last week by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s Israel office, multi-country public-opinion polls towards the Israel-UAE-Bahrain peace accords showed that Israelis like Emiratis and Bahrainis much more than Emiratis and Bahrainis like Israelis.
While some 49 percent of Israelis voted Bahrain as favorable (and 32 percent found Israel unfavorable), only 31 percent of Bahrainis voted Israel as favorable (and 48 percent voted Israel as unfavorable).
Similarly, while 67 percent of Israelis voted the United Arab Emirates as favorable (and 25 percent voted the UAE as unfavorable), only 46 percent of Emirates voted Israel as favorable (and 43 percent voted Israel as unfavorable).
The study measured attitudes of citizens in Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Morocco, the United States and Germany. Other countries that voted Israel as more unfavorable than favorable included Morocco (70 voted Israel as unfavorable, compared to 16 percent favorable), Saudi Arabia (65 percent unfavorable and 23 percent favorable) Qatar (59 percent unfavorable and 28 percent favorable), the Palestinian Authority (56 percent unfavorable and 33 percent favorable) and Germany (49 percent and 26 percent favorable).
The survey also found that while 86 percent of Israelis support the Abraham Accords—brokered by the United States and signed at the White House on Sept. 15 to normalize relations between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain—there was far less support among all other countries.
“While Israelis are euphoric in the great achievement, we didn’t know what the citizens think of each other and the peace agreement,” said Global Research’s Mitchell Barak. Where it was “almost impossible” to do public-opinion polls a few years ago without widespread access to telephone and Internet that politicians could “exploit for political gains, now we are hearing differently from the people,” explained Barak. “We determined that the picture is maybe not as rosy as our governments tell us—a significant finding that creates a greater understanding of what is going on.”
“Based on the public opinions of the agreement,” he told JNS, “Israelis were excited and greeted it favorably, but Bahrainis [especially] were not so interested.”
The UAE and Bahrain had diverging opinions on the Abraham Accords and of Israel with the UAE respondents reporting a 69 percent approval and Bahrain only a 46 percent approval.
“It is important to demonstrate that the UAE and Bahrain are two separate countries,” said Barak. “While we are being sold that they are like cousins, they have very different opinions about Israel and in general.”
“Understanding what people truly think,” Barak said, cuts through the “fluff” on social media, Facebook and the news. “Three governments made peace agreements, and while they are euphoric in the great achievement, we didn’t know what the citizens think of each other and the peace agreement,” he continued.
Israel, in general, had the lowest favorability ratings with 47 percent of respondents voting Israel “unfavorable.”
‘We are fighting for our legitimacy’
Other than the UAE and United States, support for Israel and its existence was lukewarm.
The UAE and America voted Israel as more favorable than unfavorable with 46 percent favorability (43 percent voted Israel as unfavorable) and 53 percent favorability (with 28 percent unfavorable), respectively.
Accounting for the difference in opinion between Israelis and the other countries, he said, “Israelis are very excited about signing agreements because it means breaking isolation, and Israelis have somewhat of an inferiority complex, so Israel likes countries that like us. For Israel, it means a changing dynamic in the Middle East, including tourism and security cooperation.”
“We are not operating in a vacuum, so it is important to think about what our governments are doing, what is going on in the world and how it affects us,” he said. “For the startup nation bravado, we are fighting for our legitimacy,” he said.
“This survey is important because we are hearing fluff and hasbara [public relations] from leaders of how this agreement is, and that doesn’t necessarily translate for the average citizens.”
Among the other findings of the study, the poll also found that “Iran is not as big a threat as we like to think.”
“Our governments are trying to convince us of the Iranian threat, but it doesn’t even register in the survey. Israel thought there was the highest threat to the region, but the others thought that there was not really that great of a danger,” said Barak.
The polls also showed that most countries believed that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem diminished the chance for peace in the region. Additionally, there was no “best broker” found for Israelis and Palestinians, including the United States. Support for the Abraham Accords among Gulf states was minimal, and among these states, public support for the Palestinians remained high. The poll found that members of the Gulf states were happy that Joe Biden was voted in as president-elect of the United States, whereas Israelis were less so.
Lastly, the poll asked about fears during the coronavirus outbreak and found that health was more of a concern than finances. Most people were confident in their governments’ abilities to fight the pandemic, except for Israelis.
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