Arab and Muslim Leaders At Odds Over Ties With Israel

Arab and Muslim Leaders At Odds Over Ties With Israel
Photo by Amir Hanna /via Unsplash


Naira ElTonsy

Middle East and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

Riyadh saw 57 Arab and Muslim leaders gathered in a summit to condemn Israel’s genocidal activities in Gaza, following widespread anger across the Middle East, however, no economic or political action was approved. [1] The summit saw the joining of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (“the OIC”), where regional divisions came to light about the right way to respond. [2] Even though both organisations were meant to meet separately, they made the decision to merge meetings following the failure of the Arab League to reach an agreement on a final statement. [3] The joint summit in Riyadh is seen as historical as it brought President of Iran Ibrahim Raisi to Saudi Arabia for the first time, as well as President of Syria Bashar al-Assad, President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman, and President of Türkiye Recep Tayyip Erdogan, all in one place for the first time in ten years. [4]

The emergency meeting aimed to place regional pressure on Israel to denounce its unlawful war practices on Gaza, as leaders fear that the crisis might expand to neighbouring countries, and pull the region into instability. [5] Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman initiated the summit by stating that Israeli authorities are held responsible for the occupation and crimes committed against the Palestinian people, rendering that the only way to ensure regional stability is for Israel to end its occupation on Gaza and the West Bank. [6] Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi labels the Israeli army as a ‘terrorist organisation’, and adds that action must be taken towards boycotting Israel with regards to any political or economic relations, specifically in the energy field. [7]  

The proposal put forward by the summit was to sever all diplomatic and economic relations with Tel Aviv, deny Israel of access to any Arab airspace, as well as use oil as a leverage to threaten Israel. [8] However, as any proposal introduced since the beginning of the conflict, it was shot down by many countries, which included: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco, Mauritania and Djibouti. [9]

Consequently, the summit ends with a statement that emphasises the need to end illegal Israeli practices, support the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and an independent sovereign state, and adhere to the two-state solution. [10] The leaders call for an immediate cessation of Israeli aggression, the lifting of the Gaza blockade, and international efforts to provide humanitarian aid. [11] They condemn double standards in applying international law, call for accountability for war crimes, and stress the importance of a comprehensive peace process. [12] The resolution includes various actions, such as supporting investigations of the International Criminal Court into violations of the laws of war, establishing two media monitoring units to document all the crimes committed by the occupying authorities against the Palestinian people, and providing financial contributions for reconstruction of Gaza. The Secretary-Generals of the Arab League and the OIC are tasked with overseeing the resolution’s implementation and reporting on it in future sessions. [13]

Irrespective of the unity among Arab and Muslim states in rejecting the justification of the war on Gaza, as well as condemning Israel’s violations of law of armed conflict, the summit falls short on political power or impact. Yet again, this was another platform offering leaders the opportunity to showcase their anger towards the war on Gaza, with no tangible legal action being taken. Israel must be legally held accountable for its war crimes and human rights abuses towards the Palestinian people, however, it seems that the international community has their hands tied, as long as powerful states take no action, and continue to proudly stand by Israel.

Sources and Further Reading

[1] France24, (2023, November 11), ‘Arab, Muslim leaders slam Israel, but differ on response’ <Arab, Muslim leaders slam Israel, but differ on response> accessed 20 November 2023.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid. 

[4] Pia Steckelbach, i24News, (2023, November 13), ‘Historical summit in Riyadh brings many statements with no results’ <Historical Summit In Riyadh Brings Many Statements With Zero Results - I24NEWS> accessed 20 November 2023. 

[5] TheNewArab, (2023, November 11), ‘Arab, Muslim leaders denounce Israel war on Gaza at Riyadh summit’ <Gaza: Arab, Muslim leaders denounce Israel at Riyadh summit> accessed 20 November 2023.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Livemint, (2023 November 12), ‘Saudi Arabia, UAE, 7 others block proposal to snap ties with Israel at Islamic nations’ summit: reports’ <Saudi Arabia, UAE, 7 others block proposal to snap all ties with Israel at Islamic nations' summit: Reports | Mint> accessed 20 November 2023.

[9] Ibid. 

[10] ArabNews, (2023, November 12), ‘Arab-Islamic summit adopts resolution on Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people’ <Arab-Islamic summit adopts resolution on Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people> accessed 20 November 2023.

[11] Ibid.   

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.