Saudi researcher:
'Arabs must acknowledge Jerusalem is holy to Jews'

Saudi researcher Abdelhameed Hakeem urges Arabs to learn from past mistakes and not miss another opportunity to achieve peace.

Elad Benari,

Saudi flag
Saudi flag

Saudi researcher Abdelhameed Hakeem, General Manager of the Jeddah-based Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, said recently that the Arabs must acknowledge that Jerusalem is "as holy to the Jews as Mecca and Medina are to the Muslims."

Hakeem spoke on the Saudi-based Al-Hurra TV on December 15. The interview was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

"We need to realize and acknowledge that Jerusalem constitutes a religious symbol for the Jews, and that it is as holy to them as Mecca and Medina are to the Muslims,” he said, adding that “Arab mentality must be liberated from the heritage of political Islam – both Sunni and Shiite – which, for purely political reasons, have sown the seed of the culture of hatred towards the Jews, and of denial of their historic rights in the region.”

"The Jews are an integral part of the history of this region, and Israel is the product of the Jews' historic right in the region. If we meet with the Israeli negotiators, believing them to be partners to the history of this region – whether the leaders, the peoples, or the intellectual elites – this will facilitate matters and provide flexibility in the peace process,” he continued.

"We should learn from our history in order to be able to make the right decision. In the course of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Arabs have missed many opportunities," said Hakeem.

Regarding U.S. President Donald Trump's recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Hakeem opined that it may conceal an opportunity for peace, if Israel has Jerusalem as a capital and the Palestinians receive the management of the Islamic holy places.

"My proposal is that Saudi Arabia, as a country with substantial economic resources, and as a country with a historical and leading experience in managing holy places, can help manage the holy places [in Jerusalem], if we succeed in having the Islamic holy places under Palestinian management, while Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel. If we manage to reach that point, I believe that this will constitute a political gain for the Palestinian struggle, and in return, there will be a Palestinian state, there will be an end to the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, in Ramallah, and in the refugee camps abroad. My view is that human lives are dearer in the eyes of Allah than stretches of land," he said.

The comments come amid reports that Saudi Arabia and Israel have been getting closer, though these reports have been vehemently denied by Saudi officials.

One report claimed the Saudi government is weighing the possible normalization of relations with Israel ahead of a planned Middle East peace program by the Trump administration which aims to not only secure a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but lead to recognition of the Jewish state by the larger Arab world.

Another report implied that Saudi King Salman plans to step down and announce his son as his successor, and that once the Crown Prince becomes king, he would enlist the help of the Israeli military to crush Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon.

On Wednesday, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) invited the Saudi King and Crown Prince to visit Israel in an interview with the Saudi publication Elaph.

“Israel today views Saudi leadership in the region positively,” Katz said. “No other Arab country exists with the same level of power and understanding.”

He asserted that Saudi Arabia has the ability to “lead processes and make decisions for the region - as well as for the Palestinians,” and noted that he would be ready to participate in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority if Saudi Arabia played a determining role in the negotiations.