The attacks on Saudi blogger Mohammad Saud during his visit to Jerusalem last Monday can be directly traced to Jordanian and Palestinian incitement against Saudi Arabia.
On the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, Saud was cursed and spat on. In the Old City alleyways attackers threw various objects at him. The Muslim Wakf guards looked on from the sidelines. They did nothing to prevent the attack, despite it taking place in Islam’s third holiest site. Mecca and Medina are the only religious sites more important to Muslims.
The Israel Police have arrested three young men in connection with the attacks, and more arrests are expected.
Saudi Arabia supports the U.S. administration’s Middle East peace plan and full normalization of relations with Israel. The Jordanians and Palestinians are not willing to tolerate this.
Saudi Arabia offered no official response to the assault on the Saud, but make no mistake about it: The Saudi leadership is patient, but vindictive. It will find the right time to settle its score with Jordan and the P.A.
The pilgrimage to Mecca will begin in a few weeks, and in eastern Jerusalem there is significant apprehension about the Saudi authorities’ expected treatment of Palestinian pilgrims from east Jerusalem.
The Muslim Wakf belongs to the Jordanian Ministry of Religious Endowments, and the Wakf guards on the Temple Mount receive their salaries from Jordan.
When talk of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan began, Jordan initiated a strong incitement campaign on social media against the Saudi royal family, encouraged by bodies affiliated with the Jordanian monarchy. The Saudi royal family is accused of undermining Jordan with the aim of depriving it of its special custodial status regarding Jerusalem’s holy sites. This status was accorded to Jordan in the 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
About a month ago, prior to the economic conference in Bahrain, the incitement intensified. Rumors were spread of a “deal” between President Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. According to these rumors, as part of the U.S. peace plan, Saudi Arabia, custodian of Islam’s holy places in Mecca and Medina, would also be made responsible for the entire Temple Mount.
There is no doubt that this incitement has penetrated the ranks of the Muslim Wakf institutions on the Temple Mount, so it comes as no surprise that the Wakf guards did not prevent the attack on Saud.
Jordan and Saudi Arabia have a very cool relationship. Saudi Arabia suspended its financial support of Jordan. Jordan’s King Abdullah ordered the country to form closer ties with Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s enemy, despite the Arab Quartet’s boycott of Qatar. Only last week, Jordan and Qatar exchanged ambassadors after a two-year break.
As for the Palestinian position, the P.A. did not condemn the attack on Saud either.
The P.A. is inciting against the Saudi royal family, and especially against the crown prince. The P.A.’s campaign is very clever, being carried out mostly via social media—no official media channels. P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas does not want to lose Saudi Arabia’s monthly financial aid to the P.A.
The Palestinians accuse the Saudi crown prince of plotting the U.S. peace plan together with Jared Kushner, adviser and son-in-law of President Trump. They claim that it was the crown prince who came up with the idea of making Abu Dis the Palestinian capital instead of Jerusalem.
Abbas is firmly opposed to anything perceived as Saudi normalization with Israel. He was against the 2016 visit to Israel of Maj. Gen. (ret.) Anwar Eshki, head of a Saudi Research Institute, and has criticized statements on normalization by senior Saudi officials and the media.
Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, former head of Saudi intelligence, recently stated in an interview for an Israeli television station that he wants to visit Israel.
In another television interview, Saudi journalist Fahad al-Shammari declared that “the Palestinians are beggars,” “have no honor,” and that “the Al-Aqsa mosque is a Jewish prayer house.”
Saudi researcher Louis Sharif, interviewed by Israeli television during the Bahrain conference in fluent Hebrew, expressed support for Saudi tourism to Israel.
The delegation of Arab reporters and bloggers of which Mohammad Saud was a member, invited to Israel by the Foreign Ministry, whipped the Palestinians into a fury. “How does this brazen-faced person dare to visit the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa mosque, at the same time as he is working towards normalization with Israel?” asked Fatah officials in eastern Jerusalem.
For the Palestinians, Saud’s visit to the Temple Mount is seen as the beginning of full normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Saud fell victim to violence unleashed by Jordanian and P.A. incitement in reaction to warming Saudi relations with Israel. He was incredibly lucky not to have been hurt. He maintained an unruffled demeanor and did not confront his attackers, but quickly left the site.
The Palestinian and Jordanian incitement continues; next week Jared Kushner will visit the area to promote the U.S. peace plan. It appears that the winds are stirring, and these incidents are just the forerunners of a gathering storm.
Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as director general and chief editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
This article first appeared on the website of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.