Home Op-Eds Morocco’s High Road Policy Toward Saudi-American ‘Deal’ on Jerusalem

Morocco’s High Road Policy Toward Saudi-American ‘Deal’ on Jerusalem

U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman meet at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTX30ZV3

Rabat – In the last six months, King Mohammed VI has adopted a staunchly independent stance with respect to intervention in the policies of Gulf States and did not participate in the AmericanIslamic summit held in May in Riyadh. It appears that the Moroccan monarch was aware that the outcome of the conference would not serve Moroccoo’s  interests, and thus, by staying away, he avoided being trapped in the regional calculations of the Gulf States. 

The events that ensued in the days and months following the summit suggest that a deal was struck between U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman, whereby Riyadh would facilitate Trump’s plans regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in return for Trump giving the green light the Saudi crown prince to carry out his anticorruption/power play agenda at the domestic and regional levels without interference.

Shortly after the summit, Trump’s remarks made clear that he would not have chosen Saudi Arabia as the first foreign country to visit once he had taken office had he not received economic and political concessions from Riyadh. Saudi Arabia also would not have taken the various political steps that fuelled the regional standoff – the economic blockade of Qatar, the continuation of Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen, and the arms build-up against Iran – if the US President had not guaranteed his support.

Indeed, the parameters of this deal began to emerge in the days following the summit, when Trump announced his full backing of Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Qatar, before the Departments of State and Department of Defense pushed toward a more rational and balanced US policy. The deal was also recognized in Trump’s support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s moves to take full power and remove former Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef.

In order to promote the narrative launched by Bin Salman to convince the Saudi, American, and international public that he was capable of introducing economic, political, and social reforms in the country, all the American pro-Israel research centers, led by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, one of the biggest sponsors of which is American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, came to the Crown Prince’s defense. At the same time, unprecedented statements have surfaced in Saudi Arabia, including statements by the Saudi Mufti himself, paving the way for Saudi abandonment of the Palestinian cause and the status of Jerusalem.

The exchange of secret visits between Saudi and UAE officials, the many pro-Israeli statements made by influential Saudi figures, and the Israeli blogger allowed to visit Mecca are all part of Saudi Arabia’s steps towards normalization with Israel. The kingdom is trying to promote a new narrative that Israel as no longer an existential enemy of the Arab states, but a partner in the Saudi efforts to prevent the danger posed by Iran to the balance of power in the Middle East.

In a Machiavellian move, it is clear that bin Salman promised President Trump that he would do whatever is necessary to prepare the Saudi, Arab, and Islamic public for the US’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in return for Trump’s support of his efforts to consolidate power in the Kingdom and the region.

As a result of Trump’s gifts to the Saudi Crown Prince, which enabled him to take power in the kingdom, and thanks to the complicity of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, Trump was able to kill three birds with one stone, diverting attention from three serious crises that stood to take him down:

He diverted the attention of the American public from: (1) the serious developments of the investigations conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into obstruction of justice in the Russia collusion case; (2) the tax bill voted out by Congress last week, which specialists regard as disastrous for the middle class and vulnerable groups in American society; and (3) his support for Alabama Republican presidential candidate Roy Moore, despite Moore’s involvement in sexual misconduct similar to claims that have been alleged against Trump in the past.

At the same time, Trump satisfied the Zionist-American lobby, whose most prominent figures are billionaire Sheldon Adelson, one of the biggest donors to President Trump’s campaign, as well as Christian Zionists who voted for Trump during the presidential elections and make up the vast majority of his electoral base.  

According to an article in the New York Times last April, Adelson donated USD 5 million to the commission that organized the Trump inauguration on January 20. In return for this material support, Adelson asked President Trump to transfer the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Thus, despite Saudi Arabia’s official condemnation of the US president’s move, the reality of events in the region over the past six months show unequivocally that there has been a premeditated conspiracy in the works to effect these changes notwithstanding the legitimate historical rights of the Palestinian people.

Perhaps the best case for this is bin Salman’s demand to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to abandon Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and consider the town of Abu Dis as the future capital. The Saudi crown prince presented this demand after meeting earlier in the year with the son-in-law and senior adviser to of the US president, Jared Kushner, who made several visits to Riyadh in order to arrange for the United States recognition of Jerusalemas part of what is now being  promoted by  by the White House as the “deal of the century.”

Here one should not neglect the pivotal role the United Arab Emirates played through its ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, in bringing the Trump administration and the crown prince closer. The leaked emails of the UAE ambassador demonstrate how the latter, known for his close relationship with Jared Kushner, became the link between bin Salman and Trump, and how he persuaded Trump to stand by bin Salman in the internal conflict between himself and the former Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef earlier this year.

The UAE ambassador’s efforts in Washington ended up with Mohammed bin Salman meeting with the US president at the White House, which paved the way for Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and the hosting of the Riyadh conference in May.

History will record that although countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan have undermined the Palestinian cause and facilitated the US president’s mission in proclaiming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in contrast Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, as Chairman of the Jerusalem Committee, sent a message to the American president, expressing Morocco’s categorical rejection of the step and any prejudice towards the legal and political status of Jerusalem. He also asked the Secretary-General of the United Nations to intervene in the matter.

King Mohammed VI was not in error when he declined to participate in the American-Islamic summit, the starting point of the Saudi-American deal about Jerusalem.

Morocco’s independence and long term vision has avoided any undermining of its longstanding history of support for the Palestinian people. In so doing, Morocco has once again shown that having strong ties with Saudi Arabia does not necessarily mean supporting the kingdom every step of the way and backtracking on Morocco’s foreign policy, but standing firm on convictions establishing and maintaining policies compatible with the long term interests of the country and its firm positions on national and international issues.

Samir Bennis is the co-founder of Morocco World News. You can follow him on Twitter @SamirBennis

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