U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met resistance during his recent visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He sought to gain the support of Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in aligning with the United States’ perspective on the Israel-Hamas conflict. However, both leaders expressed concerns about Israel’s extensive offensive in Gaza.
Blinken’s primary objective during his Middle East tour was to persuade Arab nations to condemn Hamas’s actions against Israel and to prevent domestic unrest in response to Israel’s significant bombing campaign in Gaza. The conflict has resulted in over 1,300 Israeli and more than 2,600 Palestinian casualties.
In Riyadh, the Saudi Crown Prince kept Blinken waiting for several hours before their meeting, which eventually took place the next morning. During the meeting, the Crown Prince emphasized the need to stop military operations that have led to the loss of innocent lives, a reference to Israel’s offensive, and called for lifting the blockade of Gaza, which has left the Palestinian territory without essential resources like water, electricity, and fuel. This stance directly contradicts U.S. policy, which supports Israel’s goal of eradicating Hamas.
Saudi Arabia is a significant power in shaping Arab perceptions of the Israel-Hamas conflict. While the country values its role as a defender of the Palestinian cause, it regards Hamas as an obstacle to regional integration, including potential normalization of relations with Israel.
Efforts to persuade Saudi Arabia to condemn Hamas have been unsuccessful, and the Saudi foreign ministry criticized Israel’s extensive bombing campaign in Gaza as an assault on defenseless civilians.
Notably, just a few weeks earlier, the U.S. appeared to be making progress in normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia, one of the most influential Muslim countries, and Israel. However, Saudi Arabia made it clear that it would not compromise on its pro-Palestinian stance.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visits to the Arab world aimed to rally support for the U.S. perspective on the Israel-Hamas conflict. While discussions with Egypt and Saudi Arabia yielded positive ideas, there remained a significant difference of opinion regarding Israel’s right to conduct an intensified military campaign in Gaza. Both Arab leaders emphasized the need to halt Israeli attacks, with a focus on lifting the blockade of Gaza, which has left its residents without basic necessities.
President El-Sisi and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stressed their concerns over Israel’s military operations. El-Sisi opposed that Israel had gone beyond the right to self-defense and imposed collective punishment. Blinken mentioned his Jewish heritage, to which El-Sisi, who grew up near Jewish neighbors in Egypt, responded that Jews in the region had not historically faced oppression or targeting.