Saudi Arabia is looking for a “victory” following many and repeated defeats of its foreign policy in the Middle East. In Syria, the oil-rich monarchy, despite tens of billions of dollars spent, failed to change the Syrian regime. Instead it released jihadists from jail and facilitated their travel to the Levant to turn Syria into a “failed state” which would have been incapable of standing against the expansion of Wahhabism and Israel. In the Yemen, more than 40,000 people were killed by Saudi-UAE indiscriminate bombing and attacks against the poorest Muslim country in the Middle East. As a result, 22 million people, according to the United Nations World Food Programme, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. In Iraq, perhaps the biggest Saudi disappointment, the central government in Baghdad managed to avoid the partition of Mesopotamia. And in Lebanon, Saudi allies failed to secure the strongest coalition in the parliamentary election, where Iran’s allies succeeded. There is only one remaining dossier the Saudis can push forward: it’s Palestine’s turn.
The Israeli media Maariv reported a secret meeting between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and Israel Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu at the Jordanian Royal Palace in Amman last week. The news was leaked to the newspapers, a typical Israeli style to avoid direct responsibility. Clearly, Israel is trying to benefit from Donald Trump’s continuing presidency to gather as many concessions as possible- concessions which no US President ever gave before. But Trump started off by launching threats against Arab leaders, and specifically towards the oil-rich monarchies, alleging they were in power only thanks to the protection his army was offering, and that if they wished to remain so, the threat was and is clear.
Trump then went further, imposing heavy bills on Saudi Arabia under the title of “commercial deals”. He also took advantage of the Arab submission and acceptance of this one-sided relationship by pulling the young Saudi Crown Prince to his side, forcing the creation of a fast-track relationship between the Saudis and Israel. To protect its kingdom, Saudi Arabia not only sent a delegation to Israel but also closed both eyes to the US recognition of “Jerusalem as Capital of Israel”.
Bahrein, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar have already established overt relationships with Tel Aviv. But Saudi Arabia is looked upon as the host of the most sacred Muslim “Black Stone”, the “house of God” in Mecca constructed by Abraham and which tens of millions of Muslims visit yearly. Therefore, the leaked meeting between the future King and the Israeli leader Netanyahu has its significance. It is the beginning of integration and the more official recognition of Israel by the Saudis. This is, no doubt, part of what Trump and Israel are preparing, to which they have given the title “the deal of the century”.
Actually, the US is prepared to unilaterally announce this “deal of the century”. Unilaterally because the main party concerned, the Palestinians, refuses any deal that considers Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, which prevents the right of refugees to return to Palestine, and which divides Gaza from the West Bank. As expected, Trump will ask Saudi Arabia (and the Emirates) to finance his “deal” by offering financial temptation to the Palestinian Authority, otherwise heavier sanctions will be put in place. The US already cut $250 billion from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) this year. Israel accuses the UNRWA of contributing to the growth rather than the reduction of the number of Palestinian refugees. This complaint, formulated by Israel, aims to reject even the possibility of the return of all refugees to Palestine.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has boycotted and heavily criticised the US establishment ever since the illegal recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is where Saudi Arabia is most needed. Abbas refused to meet with US President Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations. Abbas is aware that he can’t take any decision which goes beyond his personal authority, no matter how great the US or Saudi pressure on his position in Palestine.
Actually, the Gulf’s support for Trump’s decision, in relation to Jerusalem and towards any other political choices which advantage Israel at the expense of Palestinian rights, is contributing further to the isolation of Saudi Arabia from the Arab and Muslim populations (as distinct from the leaders). Israel and the US are bringing Saudi Arabia on board to ensure an official legitimacy to this “deal of the century”. But again, remember that Palestine is on fire since Trump announced Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Palestinians will continue escalating on the ground, regardless of the loss of life, because they are being asked to abandon their rights. They will never, ever, give up these, whether Saudi Arabia approves all Israel dreams or not.
Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has the means to put pressure on the Hashemite custodian of Jerusalem holy sites King Abdallah of Jordan by using financial power to offer solutions to Jordan’s economic crisis. But Saudi Arabia can never offer Jerusalem to Trump or indeed to Netanyahu, because al-Aqsa belongs to all believers and not only to the Palestinians.
It seems incredible that Saudi Arabia doesn’t realise that is pushing the Palestinians in the arms of Iran, the only country, along with Syria and its allies in the “Axis of the Resistance”, which refuses the US hegemony regardless of Trump’s menaces. Forcing the hand of the Palestinians will give no positive result, only an escalation of unrest in Palestine and more “legitimate” excuses to Jihadists in the Middle East, assisting them in attracting recruits to fight against those countries which have blindly submitted to the US-Israeli will and have disregarded, at their peril, the will of the people.