Abbas in Riyadh


What deal will the Saudis be offering the Palestinian leader this time?

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By Abdel Bari Atwan

It was no surprise that the US used its veto to abort the draft resolution submitted by Egypt at the UN Security Council – in response to President Donald Trump’s recognition of occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocation of the US embassy there – that would have affirmed the illegality of any unilateral actions regarding the city’s status.

It was no surprise because the current US administration has left nobody in any doubt about the extent of its contempt for and belligerence towards all things Arab or Muslim and its support for Israel’s racist, aggressive and colonial policies, an attitude faithfully reflected by its ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. She affirmed that she would also have vetoed the resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements which was passed during the final days of the Obama administration, which she described as a disgrace that America would never allow again.

The US veto was Washington’s seasonal gift to the Palestinians and the millions of people around the world who took part in protests against Trump’s decision. It was also a slap in the face of the ‘moderate’ Arab governments that appeased him, banned demonstrations in their countries against his move, and ordered their media to play down the wave of protests and actions it triggered in the Occupied Territories.

Saudi Arabia’s newfound infatuation with Palestinian Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas is a particular cause for concern. He is set to pay an official visit Riyadh on Tuesday at the invitation of the Saudi monarch and his crown prince, his second in less than three weeks.

During the first visit – according to US officials cited in various American newspapers including The New York Times – he was urged by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin-Salman to give up on Jerusalem and agree to the village of Abu-Dis becoming the capital of a future Palestinian state as part of the big deal being cooked up by trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner. This reportedly entails agreeing to a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip, after is enlarged by incorporating territory from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and is accompanied by a generous financial offer amounting to ten billion dollars. There has been no official Saudi denial to date of these reports.

We do not know what the Saudis will tell Abbas during the second visit. Will he pressed for a response to the original package, or offered an amended and ‘improved’ version to make it more palatable and acceptable?

Saudi Arabia has made abundantly clear through its officials and media that it does not view Israel as an adversary but sees Iran as its principal enemy. This despite its occupation of Jerusalem, all of Palestine and Syria’s Golan Heights, its repeated wars of aggression against neighbouring countries, and its serial massacres of civilians. The day may yet come when it lays claim not only to Jerusalem but Mecca and Medina too – as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan recently warned – on the grounds that the western part of Saudi Arabia, like Palestine, once had an ancient Jewish population.

In the meantime, just as Trump’s Jerusalem move triggered a new Palestinian uprising and shook millions of people in the Arab and Muslim worlds out of their inaction and sense of helplessness, his UN veto has reaffirmed the hostility of the US and given them further impetus to stand up for their rights and dignity. This mass awakening has been the most heartening news of recent times, affirming the maxim that good can come out of evil. The Palestinians, along with the Arab and Muslim worlds, have already lost Palestine, which is occupied in its entirety, and have nothing left to lose. But we can confidently say that the tables have now begun to turn. It is the US and Israel that have begun to make losses, and these are sure to mount and become ever costlier.