Will Kuwait be the last Arab country to recognize Israel?


In October 2021, the first Jewish wedding in 52 years was celebrated in Bahrain. In September 2022, the largest Jewish wedding in the history of the United Arab Emirates took place, with 1 guests including members of the royal family. Meanwhile, the movie "Death on the Nile" was banned in Kuwait, as the main female character is Israeli actress Gal Gadot. The small country proclaims its refusal to recognize Israel.

Between the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978 calming Israeli-Egyptian relations and the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty, 16 years have passed. It then took until September 15, 2020 for other Arab countries to recognize the official existence of Israel with the signing of the Abraham Accords by Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain under the auspices of the Trump Administration. . The agreement is supported by Egypt but also by Oman which maintains peaceful relations with Israel, although the sultanate has not signed an agreement with Tel Aviv. Morocco and Sudan joined these agreements in the following months.

The only country in the Persian Gulf with Iraq to have participated in 1973 in an Arab coalition against Israel since the 1948 war, Kuwait is increasingly isolated, with Saudi Arabia also approaching the Jewish state.

Ties between Kuwait and Palestine, the reason for the blockage

In an article of December 5, Georges Malbrunot returns for Le Figaro to the declarations of Kuwait which clearly expresses its refusal to normalize its relations with Israel. The journalist stresses that this distance is due to the close relations maintained by the emirate with Palestine.

It was in Kuwait that the Palestinian nationalist party Fatah was born, notably founded by Yasser Arafat, and the Palestinians have held prominent roles in the media, which has helped to develop support for their demands. Although Arafat's PLO supported Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, relations are now peaceful. In 2004, Mahmoud Abbas offered the PLO's apologies to the emirate for his support of Saddam Hussein.

Close to the Palestinians, Kuwait believes that the Abraham Accords have not benefited them. “What did the Emirates and Bahrain gain by getting closer to Israel? Transfers of technology, intelligence, but nothing on stopping colonization for example, ”reproaches a diplomat from the country to the two states.

Kuwait increasingly isolated in the region over relations with Israel

Kuwait's position is not new, it has been repeated since Donald Trump announced that the United Arab Emirates would sign a peace treaty with Israel. In August 2020, al-Qabas, the country's most prestigious newspaper, reported off-the-record statements from government sources that he would be the last in the Arab world to recognize Israel. According the daily, "Kuwait's position is consistent with its foreign policy approach for decades in favor of the Palestinian cause".

This position is increasingly isolated, in particular because their large Saudi neighbor is getting closer to Israel with which it shares a common enemy, Iran. In 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offered Mahmoud Abbas to renounce its claims to East Jerusalem and instead designate the locality of Abu Dis as the capital of the future Palestinian state.

The Middle East analysis site Middle East Eye observes that the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel will place Kuwait in a very uncomfortable situation. Either he recognizes Israel and will become an enemy of Iran when a large Shiite minority lives on its soil; or he does not recognize Israel and will be perceived by Riyadh as complacent towards Iran.

In January this year, the editor of the Kuwaiti newspaper Arab Times called on all Gulf states to normalize relations with Israel. Denouncing the "insults" of the Palestinians against the Gulf States when they believe they are not sufficiently supported, Ahmed al-Jarallah demanded that the regimes in the region stop supporting the Palestinians when they send missiles towards Israel.

“When [the Palestinians] are happy, they curse the leaders and the people of the Gulf. When they are angry, they use every defamatory and abusive word in their dictionary against us. Enough is enough ! The camel's back has been broken by the burden of grief we are enduring because of Palestinian ingratitude,” Jarallah said, adding that “all Gulf states should normalize their relations with Israel, because peace with that country the most advanced is the right thing to do”.

Unlike the Gulf countries which have moved closer to Israel, Kuwait is a monarchy where the power of parliament is important. Even if he has the last word, the emir must deal with elected officials who are accountable to voters who are mostly hostile to Israel.

Jean Sarpedon

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