Why the attack? Why now? What pretext? For Muslims like me, who have been following the Israel-Arab peace talks with hope and expectation, the atrocity does have a monstrous logic: Hamas wants war. Hezbollah wants war. But in recent months and years we have seen peace talks between Israel and the Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Today’s attack, certain to solicit a furious response by Israel, will push Middle Eastern opinion back towards polarised extremes. This is an attack not just against Israel but on the whole process of Israeli-Arab rapprochement.
Sunni jihadis (Hamas) and Shi’ite jihadis (Hezbollah) joined forces for today’s attack and this alliance needs to be seen the context of recent events. Last month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) gave an extraordinary interview to Fox News where he declared that ‘every day, we get closer’ to normalising relations with Israel. The Saudis would get US blessing to develop civil nuclear power. After the success of the Emirati-Israel detente following the Abraham Accords, a Saudi-Israel agreement almost looked like a done deal.
Iran was horrified: didn’t they know Jews are the enemy? Hasan Nasrullah, secretary-general of Hezbollah, castigated MBS. ‘The ummah [‘Islamic world’] needs to take responsibility for the Palestinian people. The Arab world must not abandon the Palestinians. The Zionists must hear the roars of the Muslim world,’ he ranted. ‘Any country that signs a normalisation agreement [with Israel] must be condemned and its actions denounced.’
The Saudi-Israeli rapprochement was threatening to dismantle Iran’s ‘Jews vs Muslims’ worldview, a narrative copied by no end of useful idiots in the West. The ayatollahs were in a panic with Iran’s supreme leader delivering a similar tirade on Twitter: ‘[Arab] governments that are gambling on normalising relations with the Zionist regime will lose… Imam Khomeini once described the usurper Zionist regime as a cancer. This cancer will definitely be eradicated at the hands of the Palestinian people.’