GEW Briefing

Why are Arab leaders unable or unwilling to put an end to Israel’s war in Gaza? That is the question.

The Arab leaders’ incapacity to meaningfully interfere in Israel’s Gaza war is multidimensional. Arab support for Palestine has waned since Egypt signed a peace pact with Israel in 1979. Arab governments have been focused on their own issues, such as the Iraq-Iran war and the aftermath of the Arab Spring, which has resulted in a drop in collective action for Palestine. Arab leaders’ responses to Israel’s attacks on Gaza have been characterised as inadequate and primarily rhetorical, with little actual action. Furthermore, internal Arab world conflicts, a fall in the prioritisation of the Palestinian cause, and worries about internal and regional stability have resulted in a lack of effective response. The complexity of the Arab world, particularly the rise of regional powers such as Iran and Turkey, has weakened Arab governments’ capacity to present a united front against Israeli activities in Gaza.

Historical Context and the Decline of Arab Unity

Since the Camp David Accords in 1979, when Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel, Arab support for the Palestinian cause has been steadily declining. This signified a fundamental shift in the Arab world’s geopolitical posture, splintering the once-unified front against Israel. This fragmentation has worsened over time as a result of a variety of causes, including subsequent peace treaties, shifting alliances, and altering objectives within Arab governments.

The Lebanese Civil War and the expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) from Lebanon in 1982 revealed Arab states’ inability to establish a cohesive policy to support Palestinians, thus fueling the rise of other groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

Diverse Interests and Internal Conflict

Internal turmoil and divergent interests among Arab world members have also limited the Arab world’s response. The Iraq-Iran war, the Gulf Wars, and the aftermath of the Arab Spring have all diverted resources and attention away from the Palestinian cause. Civil wars in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, as well as political upheaval in a number of Arab countries, have forced Arab leaders to prioritise national stability over regional cooperation.

Modern-Day Responses: Rhetoric vs. Action

As previously stated, Arab leaders’ responses to recent Israeli military actions in Gaza have been characterised by a duality between rhetoric and action. During crises, such as the bombing of al-Ahli Hospital, there is a pattern of vehement criticism, but these words rarely translate into tangible actions or policy. This paradox reflects a broader political malaise in which Arab regimes use the Palestinian struggle to gain public legitimacy while avoiding real engagement that would jeopardise their geopolitical objectives or internal stability.

Regional Realpolitik and Strategic Alliances

The complicated web of regional realpolitik influences Arab states’ inactivity even more. Because of the perceived threat posed by Iran’s regional ambitions, numerous Arab states have formed de facto alliances with Israel, seeking security guarantees from the US. This realignment represents a strategic calculation that prioritises opposing Iran over aiding Palestine, altering the dynamics of Middle Eastern geopolitics profoundly.


International Dynamics and the Role of Global Powers


Global powers also play an important role in shaping Arab reactions. The US’s support for Israel, as well as its geopolitical alliances with significant Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, act as a deterrent to any unified Arab military or diplomatic engagement in Gaza.

Furthermore, the international community’s responses, which have frequently been limited to non-binding UN resolutions, have not resulted in effective pressure on Israel, allowing it to continue with its policies towards Gaza with relative impunity.

Political Will vs Public Opinion

There is still a substantial divide between Arab public opinion, which broadly supports the Palestinian cause, and the political resolve of its leaders. The Arab public’s fury at Israeli activities frequently prompts quick, albeit short, political posturing by their leaders, but this does not last in the face of geopolitical and national interests.

Non-State Actors’ Roles

Non-state actors have stepped in to fill the hole left by the Arab nations’ inactivity. Resistance groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine have taken up the mantle, frequently acting independently of Arab states’ official policy. Their activities contribute to a complex regional security situation that Arab governments must traverse, often limiting their ability to meddle in Israeli-Palestinian matters directly.


The Arab world’s incapacity to adequately respond to Israeli military actions in Gaza stems from a long history of deteriorating unity and shifting objectives, exacerbated by domestic issues and the strategic calculation of regional and international geopolitics. While verbal support for Palestine remains strong, it is set against a backdrop of complicated forces that stymie collective Arab action. The emerging geopolitical environment depicts a fragmented Arab response, characterised by a divide between public feeling and state policies and overshadowed by the greater regional fight for power and influence.

In essence, the Arab governments’ response to Israel’s war in Gaza is a microcosm of the larger difficulties confronting the Arab world today. It emphasises the importance of reassessing Arab unity and the methods by which the Arab world engages with the Palestinian struggle and handles its relations with Israel in a fast-changing geopolitical landscape.



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