20 July, 2024
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Putin, Biden most influencing Mid-East: Israeli study

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Canada apparently plays a notable role in Mid-East policy, according to Hamas, as evidenced by their spokesman directly praising their UN vote in favor of a ceasefire. Israelis, however, don’t think prime minister Trudeau makes the smallest difference in the region’s politics.

Incredibly, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden entered top places as those most influencing politics in the Middle East in 2023, according to an Israeli opinion poll in the last week of December. Other world leaders that made the cut came from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and France.

Haifa-based NGO Dor Moria, together with the sociological center Geocartography, undertook a survey of over a thousand Israelis on the topic of: “The influence of world leaders and the future of Israel and the Middle East.”

The data was gathered through an online poll, with respondents aged 18 and older, forming a national and representative sample of the adult population of Israeli society, including Jewish and Arabs.

Researchers compiled a list of global political leaders, especially those most prominent in the Israeli media space, after the October 7 Hamas attacks against Israel. After which researchers enlisted Israeli political analysts, journalists, and rabbis, to assess the significance of each figure on Middle Eastern politics.

The list included: Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US president Joe Biden, Russian president Vladimir Putin, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia), President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, French president Emmanuel Macron, President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi and former president Donald Trump. Statistics provided add up to more than 100% due to respondents being offered two top choices.

In terms of the question of most influencing Middle East policy, US president Joe Biden (58.9%) received nearly twice as many votes as Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (34.5%) — who edged out Putin (31.3%) by a small statistical margin.

Tailing them are Muhammad bin Salman al Saud (16%), Donald Trump (9.9%), Turkish leader Recep Erdogan (7.6%), French president Macron (3.6%).

“It could happen that, according to Israelis, the leader for each of these issues might not be a Middle Eastern politician. Thus, in the view of Israelis, the situation in the Middle East might be driven by external actors. Hopes for peace, too, could be associated with global leaders from outside the region,” the study said.

(The maximum range of statistical error is +3.09% with a 95% level of statistical significance, said the study).

The leader in all questions of foreign policy activity in the Middle East is US president Joe Biden. The influence of other leaders, such as Donald Trump, Recep Erdogan, Emmanuel Macron, were considered by the respondents as having little to no impact on the political agenda in the Middle East.

Among the list of politicians, the ones most cited as interested in the Hamas-Israel war continuing are Biden (45.3%), Netanyahu (30.2%), Putin (19.9%), and Muhammad bin Salman al Saud (17.7%), say those surveyed.

The question regarding which leader’s policies contribute to peace in the Middle East posed the most challenge for respondents. One-third of respondents were unable to answer. President Biden (42.7%) again received nearly double the support of Netanyahu (25.3%), with Putin (20.4%) in third place.

Muhammad bin Salman al Saud received 12.6% of the votes, with Trump at nearly four percent.

“During his presidency,” the researchers said of Trump, “he actively intervened in the situation in the Middle East, particularly regarding Iran and the peace process between Israel and Palestine. His decisions, including recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, had a substantial impact on regional dynamics… the fate of many conflicts in the world depends on the election results.”

Vladimir Putin made it on the list because: “Russia plays a significant role in Middle Eastern politics, evident in its support for Syria, relations with Iran, and other Global South countries. Recently, the Kremlin has intensified its activities in the Middle East, as seen in Putin’s visits to the UAE and SA, and Lavrov’s successful visit to Marrakech for the Russia-Arab Cooperation Forum. All of this demonstrates Russia’s increased influence in Middle Eastern politics.”

Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, “is a key player in regional affairs,” researchers wrote. “His decisions, particularly regarding conflicts in the region, impact the political landscape. A crucial factor in Saudi Arabia’s role in Middle East reconciliation is the Gulf monarchies’ interest in implementing the Abraham Accords, including economic projects planned within the framework of these agreements.”

The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “actively participates in Middle Eastern politics. Turkey, along with Iran, is the only country that actively criticizes Israel at the state level. Additionally, Erdoğan provides direct support to Hamas. Turkey aspires to leadership in the Islamic world, and Erdoğan actively interferes in political processes in the Middle East.”

France plays a “distinct role in regional politics,” participating in diplomatic efforts, as to why Emmanuel Macron made it into the short list. “Macron seeks to restore France’s status in Middle Eastern countries, with interests in strengthening French influence in Lebanon, Syria, and other nations.”

And finally, the decisions of the President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, regarding Israel and the Palestinians, “hold significant importance for the Middle East,” researchers wrote.

“Considering the substantial presence of Shiite formations in the region, Iran’s role is challenging to underestimate. The situation with the Houthis and the blockade of the Red Sea illustrates the potential consequences of ignoring Iran’s interests.”

By: Dave Gordon

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