When the United States officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reactions around the world were pretty much what everyone expected. Anti-Israel activists were up in arms from San Francisco to the EU. Muslim countries protested. Violence broke out in Israel. Mild objections came from some of our allies, including Saudi Arabia.
One of the most important reactions came from the Palestinians themselves who declared they would not negotiate for peace if the United States was involved. Surely the Trump administration knew this was likely, but they’ve been working on a peace agreement that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told European leaders he liked this weekend. Why work on a peace deal if one party isn’t going to acknowledge it? To answer this, we look back a couple of months to Mohammed bin Salman and Jared Kushner.
The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia met after an unannounced trip by President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law in October. It was widely reported their two days of face-to-face meetings were about an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. This made little sense at the time because Saudi Arabia has been in favor of such an agreement for a long time. There’s no need to send Kushner for intense meetings unless they had more to discuss. Some (including I) have speculated that one topic of discussion was the “corruption purge” that happened days after Kushner left the Kingdom. It makes sense to coordinate stories ahead of a controversial move to eliminate any opposition to the next King of Saudi Arabia. Could they have also discussed Saudi Arabia’s role in a peace agreement?
There is no evidence of this that’s not circumstantial, but it’s easy to connect the dots once we look at it all as a whole. Saudi Arabia may be the perfect proxy for a Trump peace agreement to be presented to the Palestinians and Israelis. Netanyahu has already been told some of the details and seems potentially open to concessions in the agreement, a good sign if peace is to move forward. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will not work with the United States, but will likely work with the Saudis as a proxy.
All of this means the Saudis may end up being the key to Middle East peace. Even if it’s the Trump administration that creates the plan and sells it to the Israelis, it’s the Saudis who may actually end up brokering the deal. Keep an eye on this in the coming months. Chances are strong this will move quickly once it’s officially rolling.