February 2020
26 27 28 29 30 31 1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29

Jerusalem Peace & Security Forum

Jerusalem Peace & Security Forum: The Countries of the Persian Gulf and Their Influence on the Middle East

Haifa, Israel - The Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf were the topic of a Jerusalem Peace and Security Forum meeting held on Dec. 29, 2013, in the Jewish Arab Center of Haifa University. Professor Eliezer Glaubach, the president of the forum, opened the discussion by reminding the audience of the power of economics: After Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, it developed a commercial relationship with Qatar. But, taking another point of view, since both Israel and the Gulf states have a common enemy in Iran, this might be another path for an unexpected peaceful relations.

Professor Amazia Baram from Haifa University,a scholar of Arab nationalism and of the modern history of Iraq, Syria and Islamic activist movements, said the main difficulty in understanding the Gulf states is in predicting their behavior and intentions, since their interests and ways of making decisions are very different from those of the Western world. He gave the example of Qatar, a small country that has a big influence through the TV station Al Jazeera. Because Al Jazeera supports the Muslim Brotherhood and thus portrays it positively, as a secular movement, this has had a strong influence on the government of U.S. President Barack Obama, which for several years supported the Muslim Brotherhood.

start stop bwd fwd

The reason Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood is because Qatar has a history of enmity with Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood is not liked by Saudi Arabia. Following the principle "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," Qatar thus supports the Muslim Brotherhood.

The same principle is true regarding Saudi foreign policy. Saudi Arabia has a lot of money and thus is influential. It is afraid of Shiite Iran and is hostile to Syrian President Bashar Assad, who belongs to the Alawite sect of Shiite Islam. Saudi Arabia seeks to support a force that can harm both Iran and President Assad. Since Al-Qaeda provides those needs, Saudi Arabia is supporting Al-Qaeda and is involved in a very dangerous activity in Syria.

For the same reasons, the Saudis also support Al-Qaeda activities in the Chechen Republic of Russia. Professor Baram related an incident in which a senior adviser to the Saudi governmentasked Russian President Vladimir Putin for help in a certain matter, and said that in return he could stop the terror activities in Chechnya. This is how President Putin discovered the Saudis' unwanted involvementin his country.

In general, Professor Baram said, the Sunni-Shiite conflict affects relations not only between nations, and between the Arab world and the rest of the world, but also among internal groups in each of the Arab countries. The combination of these internal and external powers has never been as severe as it is today.

Professor Baram had an interesting point of view regarding Shiite Iran, which is now threatening the Saudis and also the state of Israel. But it might also reach the point of collapsing the internal systems, and that might start a movement similar to what Mikhail Gorbachev unintentionally started in the former Soviet Union. He concluded his speech by pointing out the importance of education. There are American educational institutions in the Gulf States that are considered internationally to be high level, and most of the professors come from the United States. Since the main problem of the Arab world is education, Professor Baram predicted that we are on the threshold of a revolution, although it may take 10 to 15 years before its influence will be seen.

Dr. Eran Segal, an associate scholar at the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies and a teacher in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Haifa University, said that Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates have developed historically different from the rest of the Middle East. They were at the edge of the Ottoman Empire, were not included in the British mandate and therefore were not exposed to Western influence; thus they had no liberation movements. They all remained monarchies. Therefore, when talking about the Middle East, one should consider them differently.

The Gulf States' foreign policy is influenced by internal tensions and not the opposite, as we might wrongly think. For example: Saudi Arabia is now engaged with inheritance struggles. When King Abdullah dies, the family will need to decide his successor. King Abdullah has 31 sons from many women, and those sons have tens and hundreds of sons and grandsons. Those struggles can explain the unclear foreign policy of the Saudis: For years they acted in order to receive a seat in the United Nations, and only two months after they received it, they gave up their seat and ambassador to the UN.

Professor Yitshak Weismann reported about his participation in an international interfaith conference that was financed by King Abdullah. Five hundred people participated from all religions, including Saudi ministers, Israeli rabbis and scholars, the minister of education of Pakistan, a representative of the pope, men as well as women who shook men’s hands. Professor Weismann emphasized that even though Israelis may suspect the true motivation of the Saudis, the fact that they are inviting a rabbi and communicating with Israeli scholars is indeed a substantial change that one cannot ignore. He suggested that the source for the change was the events of September 11, 2001.

Mr. Moshe Zurich pointed out that there are many players and that the “Arab spring” created many changes in the Middle East. He asked Dr. Segal how it will influence the Persian Gulf. Dr. Segal answered that the Arab spring created a fracture in internal relations. The internal tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims are fraught with "arbitrary" violent behavior. In Saudi Arabia, for example, whenever the government faces opposition from religious leaders regarding a policy, they hit strongly the Shiite populations. Since the religious leaders are Sunni, when the Saudi leadership is violent to the Shiite population, the religious leaders see that as loyalty to religion and therefore are persuaded not to oppose the government’s policy. These are patterns of behaviors which are true in the Gulf States. The Arab spring creates those internal appeals, which might cause aggressive actions.

Regarding the relationship of Israel and the Gulf States, Dr. Segal said that Israel has good relations with Bahrain and Qatar. Dubai is a country that has grown with the concept of free trade before this term was invented in the Western world. The strategy of those countries is very much oriented to economics rather than to ideology. But they will not take a step against the Arab world nor show a pro-Israeli approach in order not to sound anti-Palestinian. Also one needs to understand that their influence on the Palestinians is strong, but not direct. It is similar to the U.S. influence on Israel.

Professor Glaubach raised a question regarding the Gulf States’ financial reserves, and Dr. Segal answered that in the 1990s there was a change of perception: The Saudis realized that their image in the West is more important for them than money. They want to change the image of the Arab sheikhs with oil, an image that is associated with Al-Qaeda and religious extremism. Therefore, they are investing in sports and are buying sport teams in Europe. Furthermore, they are using Al Jazeera to improve their image and are making efforts to show changes in their attitude toward women.

Dr. Natan Tirosh closed the meeting with his suggestion to discuss the economic power of China and its ability to influence critical moves in the Middle East. Since the Middle East is an arena of many players, it is important to observe the motivation of each player; through this one can evaluate possible directions for progress.


Professor Amazia Baram, Department of Middle Eastern History, Haifa University
Dr. Eran Segal, Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, Haifa University
Professor Itzhak Weismann, Department of Middle Eastern History, Haifa University
Reserve Col. Moshe Zurich, former Israeli military attaché in the United States and deputy head of the research division in the Intelligence Corps
Professor Eliezer Glaubach, president of the Jerusalem Peace and Security Forum; specialist in Israeli political studies focusing on Jerusalem
Dr. Sarah Ozacky-Lazar, the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute
Dr. Nathan Tirosh, dean, Galilee International Management Institute
Mr. Avishai Raviv, economist and traffic engineer
Ms. Amal Abbas Khalilah, coordinator, the Jewish Arab Center, Haifa University
Mrs. Miri Kamar, secretary general, UPF-Israel
Mrs. Adi Sasaki, director of the Jerusalem Peace and Security Forum
Dr. Nurit Hirschfeld, director of the Jerusalem Interfaith Forum

If you find this page helpful and informative please consider making donation. Your donation will help Universal Peace Federation (UPF) provide new and improved reports, analysis and publications to you and everyone around the world.

UPF is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization and all donations are tax deductible in the United States. Receipts are automatically provided for donations of or above $250.00.

Donate to the Universal Peace Federation: Your donation to support the general programs of UPF.

Donate to the Religious Youth Service (RYS): Your donation will be used for service projects around the world.

Donate to UPF's Africa Projects: Your donation will be used for projects in Africa.

Related Articles

Summit Explores Peace and Development in Southeast Europe

Tirana, Albania—Participants from over 50 nations attended the Southeast Europe Peace Summit organized by UPF.

World Leaders gather for Asia Pacific Summit 2019 in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia—More than 800 delegates, including current and former heads of state and government, from 46 nations attended the Asia Pacific Summit 2019 in Cambodia.

International Day of Peace Observed in Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia—A well-known international security expert offered insights into the Russia-Ukraine conflict.