The international system has changed from a top-down to a bottom-up structure due to globalization and its effects. Regional actors, such as Saudi Arabia, have become more influential in shaping the security of their areas and the world. However, Saudi Arabia’s deterrence has been weakened by its reported willingness to be involved in the Abraham Accords, which has alienated the Arab public. The recent attack by Hamas on Israel, which was praised by the Arabs, has challenged Israel’s integration with the region. This could be an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to restore its power and influence in the Middle East if it acts wisely.
The attack by Hamas on Israel was a pivotal moment in the Middle East’s dynamics and the geopolitical shift in the region’s power balance. It marked a clear distinction between the pre-and post-October 7th developments. The Arab countries, who had previously followed the US-led regional order and sought to normalize relations with Israel – despite the opposition of the Arab masses – now face a dilemma. They have to reconsider their policies in light of the popular support for Hamas and its resistance against Israel.
The Arab world should recall the era when the major Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq had a significant role in the Middle East’s power game and each of them claimed the leadership of the Arab world. Although these countries are still relevant, they have lost the power, influence, and ability to project the power that they once had. The Arab Spring and various internal challenges have disrupted their normal state and new power centers have emerged. One of the important developments is the rise of non-Arab power centers in the region. In the shadow of the weakness and internal divisions of the Arab world, Turkey, Israel, and Iran have managed to emerge as relatively efficient countries in the region with their economic potential and military and intelligence capacities. Moreover, each of these countries has the ability to project its power abroad in a way that affects American interests there.
The world is undergoing rapid changes due to the crisis in Europe and the tension between China and the US, and we are witnessing new polarizations among state actors – such as the clash between the global south and the Western world – in international politics. Each of these could disrupt the existing order and establish a new one. Hamas’ action has offered the Arab world countries a chance to implement their desired order, which is to assert the Arab will on Israel and force this country to accept a two-state solution in the region, and to regain their lost prestige. In this regard, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, due to their traditional role and position, can play a vital and key role in uniting the regional countries and assuming the leadership role of the Arab world. Especially Saudi Arabia, which has always been able to build consensus among Arab countries. However, Bin Salman, as a revisionist and young Saudi leader, should abandon the plan to normalize relations with Israel at least for a certain period of time and use the policy of pressure and coercion against this regime. The reasons for such a suggestion are obvious.
Firstly, the polls conducted in Saudi Arabia reveal a widespread opposition of the people of this country to establishing relations with Israel. According to a survey published in the Economist, only two percent of young Saudis supported such a relationship. Therefore, agreeing to normalization has no chance of success in any democratic process and can only be imposed by force. This, especially after the recent war, can create widespread dissatisfaction at various levels in Saudi Arabia and affect not only the youth and common people, but also scholars and clerics, and even the military and security forces. This reality, similar to Egypt’s undemocratic and unpopular peace with Israel, can endanger the peace and security of the country’s leaders and especially those responsible for normalization. Moreover, the normalization of relations with Israel is contrary to the Arab peace plan that was adopted unanimously by all Arab governments at the Arab League Summit in Beirut in 2002.
Secondly, the Saudis should also remember that the Americans have not been faithful to any of the regional leaders. The way the US treated its former allies, such as Hosni Mubarak, the former president of Egypt, Ashraf Ghani, the former president of Afghanistan, and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the former king of Iran, should have warned the Egyptian and Saudi authorities that Washington has no permanent friends. Therefore, Bin Salman should be cautious and aware that Washington is not a reliable partner for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. According to the CIA reports, the US has been looking for a plan to replace Ben Nayef as the king of Saudi Arabia.
Finally, the attack by Hamas on Israel could be a turning point for the Arab world and especially for Saudi Arabia. This war has offered these countries, especially the Saudis, a great opportunity to change the order and balance of power in the Middle East. In other words, by relying on the military and political achievements of this war, the Saudis can distance themselves from the policies of Washington and Israel, especially regarding the joining of the Abraham Accords, while restoring the former position and prestige of the Arab world as a trendsetter and a popular figure among the Arab public opinion. They should transform and once again become game-changers in regional developments.