The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a huge issue in the region. Israel has fought multiple wars with each of its four neighbors, all of whom nominally support the Palestinian national cause. Today, it has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, but its relations with its other neighbors, Syria and Lebanon, are fraught. There are large, mistreated Palestinian refugee communities in all of Israel’s neighbors but Egypt. Outside of its immediate neighbors, the three most important regional states in the conflict are Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. Here’s a guide to each country’s role.
Egypt: Egypt’s 1978 peace treaty with Israel, the first signed by any Arab state, is underwritten by massive amounts of American aid to both Egypt and Israel. The treaty also forbids Egypt from a military presence in the bordering Sinai Peninsula, which has helped militant and criminal groups flourish there.
Syria: The Syrian government is still quite hostile to Israel. Syria is aligned with Iran, Israel’s greatest adversary in the region today. Syria also wants the Golan Heights, militarily useful land Israel seized during their 1967 war, back.
Lebanon: Lebanon is home to Hezbollah, a virulently anti-Israel Shia Islamist group funded by Iran. Hezbollah is a major force in Lebanese politics, so Lebanon is unlikely to play any role in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the near term.
Jordan: Israel’s eastern neighbor both has a peace treaty with Israel and houses the largest concentration of Palestinians refugees. It’s also the one of Israel’s neighbors where Palestinians have full citizenship rights. Despite this, many refugees are shoved into crowded camps and generally poorly treated, which is why Palestinians are skeptical of their neighbors’ claim to support the Palestinian cause.
Iran: The Iranian government believes Israel is fundamentally illegitimate and supports the most hard-line anti-Israeli Arab factions. Israel sees Iran as a direct and existential threat, as it has provided significant military and financial backing to Hezbollah, Hamas, and Syria — the so-called ”Axis of Resistance” to Israeli and Western interests in the Middle East.
Turkey: Long on good terms with Israel, Turkey has become increasingly pro-Palestinian in recent years. Its Islamist Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has positioned himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause for ideological, domestic, and geopolitical reasons. Israeli-Turkish conflict over an Israeli raid on a Turkish aid mission to Gaza severed diplomatic relations between the two countries for years. They renormalized in 2016, but are still fragile.
Saudi Arabia: The kingdom donates hundreds of millions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority and is the driving force behind an Arab League peace plan floated as an alternative to traditional Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Though Saudi Arabia has yet to recognize Israel, the two nations’ mutual hostility toward Iran has led to an unprecedented working relationship between the Saudi and Israeli governments.