Trump and Saudi King Salman
Trump and Saudi King SalmanReuters

The Saudi government was instrumental in lobbying the Trump administration to pressure Israel to shelve legislation aimed at preserving Jerusalem’s Jewish majority by annexing surrounding towns in Judea and Samaria, a Saudi newspaper has claimed.

According to are report carried by Al-Watan, the US requested that Israel not push the law after Saudi officials demanded the Trump administration take action against the “Greater Jerusalem Law” proposed by Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.

Under the original draft of the proposed law, 19 Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria would be annexed to the capital, adding some 150,000 Jews to Jerusalem’s population and extending Israeli sovereignty over the communities.

On Friday, a State Department spokeswoman declined to condemn the bill, saying it involved “internal matters I wouldn’t want to comment on.”

But on Saturday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who had previously backed the bill, called for discussion on the proposal to be delayed.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu explained his decision to delay discussion of the bill within the coalition, arguing that it was important to ‘coordinate’ major changes in Judea and Samaria with the Trump administration.

"We are in contact with the Americans; the Americans turned to us seeking to understand the essence of the Law. As we have cooperated with them so far, it is worthwhile talking with them and coordinating them. We are working to promote and develop settlement rather than to promote other considerations," Netanyahu said.

Later, a senior Washington official told Channel 10 that the Trump administration did not back the bill – hinting that it may have been American pressure that led to Netanyahu’s sudden about-face.

According to Al-Watan, American opposition to the bill was largely a result of protests by the Saudi government, which had demanded that the Trump administration block the bill’s passage.

The Al-Watan report cited a senior White House official who claimed that Saudi diplomats had called on the US to intervene against the Greater Jerusalem Law.

Following the apparent diplomatic backlash against the bill, Minister Katz offered to remove the sovereignty clause from the law – providing for the annexation of the 19 towns to the city of Jerusalem, while not extending Israeli sovereignty over them.

“The Americans have known about the law for months. I spoke about it in depth with [Trump envoy Jason] Greenblatt and [US Ambassador to Israel David] Friedman, and they never expressed any opposition.”

“I’ve decided to remove the clause applying [Israeli] sovereignty [to the 19 towns which will be annexed to Jerusalem] from the law, to make it feasible politically to pass the bill.”