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Saudi Arabia Hosts Gaza Summit; Aims to Address Concerns over Regional Instability

By: Hamail Tahir

As we approach the 34th Day of the Israel-Hamas War in the Middle East, no major development has taken place in order to stop these heinous war crimes. As days pass by, there is a significant increase in the number of casualties due to Israel’s barbaric bombing on the Gaza Strip which has claimed more than 11,000 lives of Palestinians and 1400 dead (Hamas-run Health Ministry) in Israel. Saudi Arabia hosts the Gaza Summit this weekend in order to address the rising tensions and escalations in the Middle East region.

Saudi Arabia aims to host two sessions of the ‘Gaza Summit’ this weekend at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) alongside other Arab leaders and the President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi. The purpose of this summit is to unite the position of Islamic states on the Palestinian stance. The Riyadh Summit will discuss political outcomes and the potential of an increased expansion of this regional instability which will never be resolved (for the foreseeable future) unless there is a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

On the other hand, Turkiye has sent around 10 planes that carry humanitarian aid for Gaza people with the help of Egyptian cooperation through the Rafah Border. The country sees this occupation as genocide of Palestinians and may present its advocacy for a ceasefire. This meeting may prove to be a successful attempt, only if, it produces tangible results on pressurizing Israel in order to stop this war. However, to analyze critically, it is also seen as a strategic game of chess that Saudi Arabia is playing, aiming to lead the Islamic Council for the peace process.

With the presence of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, in the Summit, a joint connotation by the OIC other than condemnation is expected. Iran and Saudi Arabia Rivalry dates back to the 1979 Iranian Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini which was nothing less than a threat to the Saudi monarchy. Further tensions arose when Saudi executed the Shia clergy ‘Nimr Al Nimr’ in 2016 in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia. In retaliation, the Saudi embassy was set on fire in Tehran, Iran. Since bitter rivalry increased massively in terms of proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia, especially in Yemen (Houthi-backed Iran), Lebanon (Hezbollah-backed Iran), and Syria. Nonetheless, Iran and Saudi rapprochement in April of 2023 with the help of China is quite fruitful when we look at the current status of the Middle East. Both these major rivals (turned neutrals at the moment) have a unified stance on the horrific war crimes imposed on Gaza. An example of this is the telephonic conversation between Prince Mohammed Salman and Raisi on 12th October, just five days after the attack took place. There may as well be a significant impact of this OIC meeting if all Arab leaders and Iran work together on promoting a ceasefire.

Caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, arrived in Riyadh on Friday 10th November to attend the OIC meeting. Pakistan blatantly does not recognize the state of Israel which is highlighted on the Pakistani passport as well. It says, ‘This passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel’. This historically bold stance and sheer support of an independent Palestinian state (pre-1967), with renowned internationally acclaimed borders, may as well be highlighted in the meeting.

American advocacy of peace and democracy is highly skeptical since its veto on the ceasefire presented in the United Nations General Assembly. Western narrative is now greatly exposed and widely rejected by non-Western states. We see Non-West great states such as China and Russia rooting for a two-state solution and calls US extensive militarization in the Mediterranean Sea as a move of escalation.

In my opinion, I believe, the OIC Summit may bring more to the table than a joint condemnation of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Moreover, the neutrality between Iran and Saudi Arabia may result in better and smoother outcomes, if we tend to look at this from a pre-rapprochement lens. Turkiye may represent itself as a bold regional actor since recently; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a massive protest in favor and support of Palestinians also known as ‘The Great Palestine Meeting’. Enormous protests took to the streets in Islamic countries, to name a few; Pakistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, Morocco, and Malaysia and non-Islamic states; US, Germany, Italy, UK, and France. The Summit might fuel a collective vision of Islamic cooperation in order to address the Israel-Palestine conflict that has been under fire since the past 56 years of Israeli occupation and cruelty.

The writer is a student of Strategic Studies at National Defence University, Islamabad. She can be reached at [email protected]

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