The balance of the Maghreb regimes with the Gaza war

The balance of the Maghreb regimes with the Gaza war

TunisiaThe attack launched by Hamas on October 7 took not only the Israeli army and intelligence services by surprise, but also the entire ruling class in the Arab world. For decades, Arab streets have condemned their governments for not doing more to support the Palestinian cause, beyond words. With the outbreak of the Arab Spring, it seemed as if the Palestinian issue had taken a backseat, but the brutal war in Gaza changed this equation: it put the issue back on the table and widened the gap between Arab regimes and their citizens. The trench could expand further starting tomorrow, when Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims, begins.

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There is no doubt that the countries that find themselves in a more sensitive position are those that signed the so-called Abraham Accords to normalize relations with Israel since 2021, after Donald Trump’s plan: Morocco, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan. In addition, Saudi Arabia was negotiating with Tel Aviv and Washington to join the initiative, which was frozen due to the Israeli response to the Hamas attack. One of the reasons for rapprochement with Israel is the desire of these countries to strengthen relations with the United States.

In North Africa, the war upended some internal political balances, especially in Morocco, which normalized relations with Israel in exchange for US recognition of its sovereignty over Western Sahara. “After normalization, there was a realignment of all parties close to Palau, which supported this measure, because it is widely accepted that foreign policy is the exclusive domain of the king,” explains Alfonso Cassani, professor at the Complutense University of Madrid. Since the signing of the agreement, communications between the two countries have doubled in many areas, especially in the security field, which is of particular concern to Rabat. But trade exchanges have also increased significantly – they doubled in the past year – as well as the arrival of Israeli tourists to Morocco.

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Egypt is at the epicenter of the earthquake

In Egypt, police arrested hundreds of people for demonstrating in support of Palestine outside government-designated areas and near the legendary Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 2011 revolution. Egypt was the first Arab country to conclude peace with Israel in more than four years. Decades ago, part of the population believed that Field Marshal Sisi’s regime could do more to alleviate the tragic situation in the Strip. But the real reason for the arrests is internal: the regime’s fear of losing control of the street, and that these marches in Tahrir will lead to anti-government protests, in light of the decline in Sisi’s popularity, especially after implementing harsh structural amendments that drowned millions. Egyptians are in poverty. Egypt is also under pressure to establish a border with Gaza, and is negotiating with the United States, Israel and Qatar over the possible departure of thousands of Gazans for Sinai, which could be interpreted as support for the Israeli plan to expel Palestinians from their lands. Land.

Algeria's leaders also fear anti-government protests, although the regime has always championed the Palestinian cause. On October 12, the authorities arrested activists from various parties who spontaneously demonstrated in favor of Palestine. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune believes that if he tolerates these protests, there could be a revival of the Hirak protest movement, which endangered the regime in 2019. “Because the street was boiling, the government finally agreed to sponsor the protests, but it made it a condition that it be so.” “Not on Friday, because he knows he cannot control a crowd of people leaving the mosques,” explains an Algerian journalist.

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In Tunisia, the context is different. All kinds of pro-Palestinian demonstrations are encouraged by the regime of Kais Saied, the president who staged a sort of self-coup in 2021. But there was an unexpected conflict between the president and parliament after a proposed law introduced by several representatives would criminalize any cooperation with Israel. Interestingly, this initiative was part of Saied's electoral program, but now, in the midst of the Gaza war, the president backed down and forced the legislature to withdraw the text. According to informed sources, White House envoys explained to Saied the practical consequences of the law and the harm it might cause in Tunisia. That's why he changed his position. The conflict was uncomfortable for Said, as parliament was dominated by his followers. The opposition boycotted the elections, considering that they did not have sufficient guarantees.

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