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Losing Jerusalem to focus on Iran

A view of Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem on 23 July 2017 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

The US and its Arab allies have paved the way for Israel to expand its occupation of Palestine. The Palestinian cause is now clearly secondary to the supposed threat posed by Iran in the region.

And so, it's come to this. Jerusalem has been stolen in broad daylight, gone not with a bang but with a whimper, as the usual crop of unelected Arab dictators again validate their special place in the hearts of politicians in Washington and Tel Aviv.

Take for example the Saudis. The supposed 'Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques' is led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a thirty-something hothead who in his heart of hearts would rather have his fantasy Silicon-Valley-in-the-desert than another mosque, especially one in which he hasn't ever stepped foot.

The Gulf Arab world seems chock full of "modern pro-Western moderates" like MbS. Raised on Xboxes, fed a steady diet of filtered information from sycophantic advisors (or in this case, McKinsey consultants) and illiterate to the Islamic history they're purported to represent. One can easily imagine MbS sitting criss-cross-applesauce in one of the palace's private majlis rooms, rubbing his prayer beads and nodding in agreement as Jared Kushner sells him late into the early morning hours a bill of goods about the wonders of the "ultimate" deal between Israelis and Palestinians; how the Saudi-American-Israeli-Emirati bloc could follow that to the main course Iran; and how the end result will be Team Trump securing the MbS dynasty for many years to come. And everyone gets fantastically rich along the way!

Read: Palestinian leaders should stop discussing Jerusalem within the context of negotiations

A gift of inestimable value from one politician likely under criminal investigation, to another who definitely is, should serve as a remarkable—if not humiliating—reminder of the depths the Arab world has sank in American eyes.

In short, the Saudis and Emiratis have validated all the pro-Israeli think-tank commentary over the years suggesting that "moderate Arab" states are obsessed with Iran and could care less about the Palestinian cause, at least in private.

As Israeli occupation and Palestinian misery steadily increase, the Saudis have found it timely to spearhead unprecedented outreach to Israel, with such naked transparency that they'd receive a passing scorecard from a wary US Congress, which only Israel can deliver.

The Emirates, well, just listen to the words of Yousef al Otaiba, who went on television to soothe American viewers how the UAE wants "strong, stable and prosperous secular governments" in the Arab world.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE purport to pull all stops at moving their respective countries toward "moderation."  Totally lost on them is that Israel and America are continually moving rightwards toward Islamophobic extremes, a platform Trump ran on and won.

Read: The legal, political and popular consequences of Trump's plans for Jerusalem

The writing was on the wall following Trump's "Muslim ban," which Arab powers hardly opposed. After inciting Americans against Islam and Muslims throughout the campaign, the Saudis even invited Bannon, Trump and the whole gang to Riyadh to flatter them. The glowing orb they stroked may just as well have represented their missing manhood.

Indeed, it is the Arab states striking lack of a credible threat to Israel—military, economic, or political—that has allowed it to pummel Gaza every few years, keep building settlements, slowly ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from the West Bank and now claim Jerusalem with American backing. Forgotten, is that it was the October 1973 war that saw invading Arab armies bloody Israel's nose, paving the way for Israel's withdrawal from the occupied Egyptian Sinai and parts of Syria's Golan Heights. Arab force plus unity behind the crippling oil embargo did the trick. But since then the Arab nations have been the butt of the joke.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with US President Donald Trump in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, 23 May 2017 [Thaer Ganaim/Apaimages]

Fast forward to 2017, the Arab states can't agree on anything.  The UAE and Saudi Arabia try to convince the world that Qatar—that's right, Qatar, and its Al Jazeera channel where I work—are the greatest threats to the region.

Meanwhile, Arab states that made peace with Israel while their Palestinians brothers and sisters were left behind—Egypt and Jordan—try to get through another day without being overthrown by their angry and bothered masses, hoping that whatever Israel does or doesn't do won't cost them their lives or US funding.

After all, without steady American bribes to keep the peace with Israel alive, who else will supply security goons with state-of-the-state weapons, and all other manner of dictator widgets to keep their menacing populations at bay?


Which takes me back to Iran. The mood from this part of the world, especially after Ali Abdullah Saleh's death in Yemen, is that everyone is spoiling for a war out in the open.  Trump, Netanyahu—the new Saudi/Emirati alliance, with muscle provided by Blackwater (now operating under the name Academi)—all see it as a matter of time and formalities before they can join forces to lynch Iran. Not to dirty their own hands, of course, the Saudis and Emiratis can use Israeli air power, mercenaries, and US grunts supplied by Trump to confront Iran closer to home.

Pay no attention that the US didn't fare so well against Iranian proxies during the recent Iraq or Syria wars. According to their thinking, it just might click now if they all collaborate: Americans, Israelis, and quisling Arabs.

Seen in that light, Jerusalem is an unfortunate casualty necessary to bring the Israelis onboard. At the same time, it is the mother of all ironies that Iran—a steadfast Jerusalem supporter that continually resists Israel—can stand to politically benefit the most in the eyes of the Arab and Muslim street.

Second to Iran will be the victory for the Arab and Muslim people, as nothing will reveal their bankrupt leaders greater than the Jerusalem heist and the sucking up to Israel that will only intensify while Kushner and Trump test their ideas.

The tragedy is that neither Trump or Netanyahu will be around to see the long-term aftershocks their lightning moves will ultimately produce.

After years of Saudi-inspired sectarianism, something needs to unite Saudi's ideological bedfellows against the warped belief that killing another Muslim is more important than defending Islam's holiest sites from unlawful encroachment and abuse. Jerusalem just might prove to be the catalyst.

This was first published on TRT World, 6 December 2017

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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