A surprising poll reveals the Saudi public's attitudes toward normalization: while Israel marks the concessions to the Palestinians as a dramatic event or alternatively the response to Saudi demands regarding a nuclear issue, it turns out that the Saudis are actually concerned about something completely different: the rights of prayer for Muslims at Al-Aqsa, the Temple Mount.
Netanyahu presents map of peace in the Middle East \\ Reuters
In a new survey by the Fikra Forum (a body under the Washington Institute), the results of which are published Tuesday morning by the Misgav Institute, 46% of respondents ranked "guaranteeing the rights of Muslims at the Al-Aqsa Mosque" as the most important condition for relations with Israel, compared with 36% who placed the protection of "political and economic rights for the Palestinians" in first place.
The Saudi ambassador in Ramallah, photo: Arab networks
According to Asher Fredman, a senior researcher at the Misgav Institute for National Security and Zionist Strategy, "These findings reveal an opportunity to ensure and uphold within the framework of the agreement for the Saudis something that already exists – the adherence to the right of worship on the Mount for Muslims rather than new steps towards the Palestinians, who received less support."
"Other measures that the Saudi public was asked about and did receive little support were – receiving American weapons and American guarantees, which received 18% support, as well as cooperation with the United States for the construction of Saudi power plants – which received only 16% support. As far as the Saudi public is concerned, it is actually the religious issues that are more important, especially in what is perceived today as an Israeli attack on Islamic holy sites."
The survey also found that 30% of the respondents support cooperation with Israeli technology companies in areas such as climate, water, and cyber, but only 14% support the use of Saudi airspace by Israeli airlines (which is already happening) and only 13% support the participation of Israeli teams in sporting events in Saudi Arabia. According to Fredman, the Saudis put progress toward those "national goals in the framework of Vision 2030" at the forefront.
The Saudi ambassador in Ramallah presents the credentials to the Palestinian foreign minister, photo: Arab networks
Another option surveyed was to invite the Israeli prime minister to attend an international conference in Saudi Arabia, but only 7 percent supported it, and only four percent supported Jewish prayer in defined places in Saudi Arabia. "Saudi Arabia is in a great effort to strengthen the economy and lead in technology and innovation, and the steps that are gaining more support are steps that advance them towards realizing this vision," Fredman says, adding that despite the fact that this is not a democratic regime, "the leadership takes public opinion into account, and therefore we see that the steps bin Salman has taken in these years are being taken with preparation and measured steps. This is because even this regime, despite its essence, conducts surveys informally and discreetly."
Misgav Institute head and former head of the National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat told Israel Hayom that "assuming that the survey findings reflect the mood in Saudi Arabia, then it seems that a large portion of the respondents recognize the great potential inherent in partnership with Israel in the fields of technological innovation. The positions in the other areas indicate the challenge facing leaders on the way to establishing peace. Public opinion can have dramatic weight in decisive moments, so they must know the picture and influence it."
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