ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 139

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Arab diplomats ‘horrified’ by Hamas onslaught but frustrated by Israel’s response

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Egyptian protesters shout anti-Israeli slogans during a demonstration to show solidarity with Palestinians, in front of the Journalists Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, October 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Egyptian protesters shout anti-Israeli slogans during a demonstration to show solidarity with Palestinians, in front of the Journalists Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, October 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

A pair of senior diplomats representing Arab countries that have ties with Israel tell The Times of Israel that their governments were horrified by the scenes that came out of southern Israel after the Hamas onslaught.

The comments are made on condition of anonymity, as the vast majority of the Arab world has refrained from condemning the Hamas assault, instead preferring to censure the targeting of civilians more broadly. Only the United Arab Emirates issued a specific condemnation of Hamas.

While the two diplomats insisted that there is wall-to-wall disapproval among Israel’s Arab allies and beyond of the crimes committed by Hamas on October 7 — one of them saying his government was “horrified” — the attacks prove the failure of Israel’s long-maintained strategy of “ignoring the Palestinian issue.”

One of the diplomats points to Netanyahu speech last month at the UN General Assembly, where he asserted that peace between Israel and the Arab world can precede peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Nothing excuses these acts by Hamas, but you cannot ignore what has been happening in Gaza for all of these years,” the diplomat says.

Moreover, the two diplomats say that Israel’s crushing response in Gaza to the Hamas attacks has led to the dissipation of goodwill that Jerusalem had briefly obtained from some of its Arab allies.

Hundreds of Moroccans take part in a protest in Rabat, Morocco, in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, following the bombing of al-Ahli Hospital there, on October 17, 2023. (AP Photo)

The diplomats say their governments were particularly incensed by calls from some Israeli figures for Egypt to take in refugees from Gaza, explaining that this could set a precedent for mass-transfers of Palestinian populations from the West Bank into Jordan, which Amman opposes in the strongest of terms.

“Egypt and Jordan view such proposals as existential threats,” says one of the diplomats.

The diplomats add that while some in Israel interpreted the Abraham Accords to mean that Arab countries that normalize with Jerusalem no longer care about the Palestinian cause, the latest Gaza war should serve as a reminder that sympathies and allegiances in the region remain with the Palestinians.

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