BRUSSELS — The Arab world is unified in condemning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and the way the Israeli police invaded Jerusalem’s Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites. Governments have spoken out, protests have taken place, social media is aflame.
But by and large the condemnation is only words, not actions — at least so far. The region’s concerns have shifted since the last major Israeli incursion into Gaza in 2014, with new fears about Iran’s influence, new anxieties about popular unrest in Arab countries and a growing recognition of the reality of Israel in the Arab world.
Even those countries that normalized relations with Israel last year — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco — have all openly criticized Israeli policies and called for support of the Palestinians and the defense of Jerusalem. The escalation of violence has put a great strain on those governments, which had argued that their closer relationship with Israel would help restrain Israeli actions aimed at the Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza.
“I have not seen any Arab state that has not expressed support for the Palestinians on a rhetorical level, and it would be very difficult for them to say anything otherwise,’’ said H.A. Hellyer, a scholar of Middle East politics at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington. “But what they do about it is very different.’’
Aqsa Mosque struck a chord, said Khaled Elgindy, director of the Palestine program at the Middle East Institute. Gaza is one thing, but “Jerusalem is important for the Arab League and for clear stakeholders, like the Jordanians and the Saudis,’’ who are the guardians of the holy places of Islam, he said.
Israeli police raid of the Aqsa Mosque on Monday — which left hundreds of Palestinians and a score of police officers wounded — was “a no-brainer for them given the sensitivity of Al Aqsa and the violence shown to worshipers on the holiest night of Ramadan in one of Islam’s holiest sites,’’ said Zaha Hassan, a human rights lawyer and a visiting fellow at Carnegie.