Donald Trump’s rash declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is so out of whack with global opinion and decades of international legal rulings, one has to surmise that the initiative stems from dubious inspiration.
Turns out that the likely authors of the harebrained idea are Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner (36), and 32-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS).
Kushner, a dodgy property dealer with no diplomatic experience, is Trump’s unelected top aide, assigned to seal the “deal of the century” – meaning bring peace between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Like the Saudi Crown Prince, with whom Kushner is said to be close friends, the two neophytes think of themselves as “creative innovators”. Wunderkinds.
Numerous critics disagree. They say the two men lack understanding and experience in international relations.
Given Kushner’s orthodox Jewish faith and fervent support for illegal Israeli expansionist policies in occupied Palestinian territories his supposed peace mission with the Palestinians is a dead letter.
American envoys down through the decades have hardly carried much credibility as neutral brokers in mediating the 70-year-old Arab-Israeli conflict. But Kushner’s credentials no longer bother to conceal the flagrant bias.
For several months, Kushner has been touting an abstract peace plan that is billed as solving the long-running conflict, without giving away any details about what the supposed plan is prescribing for a putative solution. Sounds like Kushner takes after his business-mogul-turned-president father-in-law – espousing lots of flannel to compensate for an embarrassing lack of detail.
However, from a report in the New York Times, we seem to get a sneak preview of what the Trump White House under Kushner’s guidance is cooking up.
Three days before Trump made his rash declaration on Jerusalem being the capital of Israel last week, the NY Times reported that the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had already been briefed on a similar precipitate move – not by the Trump White House but by Saudi Crown Prince MbS.
The meeting with Abbas in Riyadh took place in early November, about one week after Kushner had conferred with the Saudi Crown Prince in private discussions over several days at the royal residence, also in Riyadh.
During his below-the-radar trip to the Saudi capital, Kushner is said to have held late night discussions with the heir to the Saudi throne. What they discussed is not publicly known.
But one week later, the Saudi royal embarked on an abrupt mission: a bold crackdown on Saudi rivals, arresting dozens of family members; as well as making an audacious interference in Lebanese internal affairs by coercing the resignation of premier Saad Hariri (since rescinded).
Also around the same time, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was summoned to Riyadh by the Crown Prince. Abbas was reportedly told by MbS of a new deal being hatched to settle the conflict with Israel.
The purported details, credibly sourced by the NY Times, amount to a breath-taking abandonment of long-held Palestinian rights. According to the reported Saudi plan, the Palestinian future state would not be a contiguous one; it would comprise isolated scattered areas in the West Bank and in Gaza. Furthermore, Israeli illegal settlements in occupied Palestine would not be reversed, as they should be under international law; and millions of Palestinian refugees who have resided in neighboring Jordan and Lebanon would be made to forfeit the right of return to their historic homeland.
The ultimate shocker in the Saudi proposal was that the Palestinians would no longer be able to claim East Jerusalem – the Old City possessing religious sanctities such as the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock – as their future capital. Instead, the Palestinians would be given a nondescript suburb called Abu Dis as the capital of a final state. Abu Dis is located outside the city of Jerusalem, eastwards beyond the peripheral giant security wall that the Israelis have built.
Abbas was reportedly aghast by what the Saudi Crown Prince told him. The radical proposal even repudiates a plan put forward by the late Saudi King Abdullah in 2002, which, then at least, paid lip service to the idea of East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. The Al Asqa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina for which the Saudi royals claim to be the “custodians”.
On the face of it, the newly proposed Saudi peace deal is an astounding betrayal of Palestinian rights. Not just Palestinians, but all Arabs and Muslims across the world for whom East Jerusalem has unique spiritual significance.
There again, more astute observers are hardly surprised, given that the House of Saud has, historically, afforded very little interest in defending the Palestinian cause. When, for example, did the Saudi rulers ever threaten to use an oil embargo as leverage to settle the dispute fairly?
Yaakov Nagel, a former aide to Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, recently commented that the Saudi rulers “don’t give a damn” about a settlement for the Palestinians. What the Saudis care about is normalizing relations with the Israelis in order to form an anti-Iran axis, along with the US.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has already shown himself to be an intense antagonist towards Shia Iran. The reckless Saudi warmongering in Yemen, the blockade against Qatar, and the interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs have all been orchestrated by the ambitious prince as part of a regional showdown with Iran.
As the New York Times reported above, the proposals made by the young Saudi Crown Prince to the Palestinian leader are so insulting to the Palestinian cause that they betray someone who is rather clueless and callous. What seems to be behind the Saudi move is a bid to solicit favor with the Trump administration, driven by an obsession to form an anti-Iran axis.
Of course, when Trump made his announcement last week recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, the Saudi rulers issued a pro forma public rebuke. Nonetheless, the Saudi reaction, and that of the Arab League which it controls, were all noticeably restrained. There were also reports that the Saudi regime ordered Arab media outlets under its control to play down the anger, and to instead keep the focus on alleged transgressions by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
So then, in summing up, what we have is this: the two wunderkinds, Kushner and Crown Prince MbS, come up with a late-night brainstorming session some time at the end of October. It’s all for setting the world to rights, as they see it in their puny, self-serving limited way.
Kushner wants the achievement of pulling off the “deal of the century” and to go down as the “greatest diplomat in modern history”. And he wants it all in favor of his beloved Jewish Israel, of course.
His underachieving Saudi buddy wants a war with Iran because his Wahhabi medieval mindset views Shia Islam as “heretical”. And he has already a big deficit of PR cock-ups to rectify. For this, MbS needs Trump and Israel to get on board in order to pursue his glorious messianic endeavor. He gets their favor by selling out the Palestinians. And Zionist Kushner would have absolutely no problems with that little swindle.
Weeks later, President Donald Trump – who reportedly watches eight hours of Fox News and drinks 12 cans of diet coke a day – has been briefed on the “deal of the century”. The first step is to hand Jerusalem to the Israelis, lock, stock and barrel.
Meanwhile, as a result, the Middle East region is roused to the brink of war and sectarian conflict – all at the behest of two wunderkinds and a president who seems to think that pursuing peace and justice is the same as flogging a piece of real estate.
Photo: Joseph Bahout – Twitter