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Gulf politics

The Arab princes reshaping the Middle East

MBZ (left) and MBS in 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Anadolu Agency/Getty

For the first time in the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict, says Dominic Green in The Spectator, the leaders whose opinions matter most won’t be Middle East outsiders like the presidents of America or Russia. They will be two Arab princes: Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Zayed of the UAE, “the double act known as MBS and MBZ”. And with the prospect of a nuclear Iran dominating the region with its Shia allies, these two Sunni autocrats are “aligning themselves with Israel”. The Trump-era Abraham Accords opened relations between the UAE and the Jewish state; MBS told Fox News last month that the Saudis get closer to doing the same “every day”.

Hamas’s appalling attacks on Israel were meant to derail this process. But by using Tehran’s funds and weaponry, they merely reinforced the need to counter the Iranian threat by moving closer to Israel. MBS and MBZ don’t want to get bogged down in old conflicts – their priority is future-proofing their states by using the last decades of the oil age to switch their economies to tech, renewables and leisure. Their tone this week is telling. MBZ’s foreign minister condemned Hamas in language that until recently would have been “unthinkable”. MBS made fewer demands of Jerusalem than the US State Department, which initially called for a ceasefire even as Israeli special forces were still fighting Hamas terrorists in Israeli towns. Arab governments have tired of the Palestinians’ “veto over regional progress”. In the eyes of these powerbrokers, justifying murder in the name of God and blaming the Jews for everything has finally backfired.