ANALYSIS:How Saudi Crown Prince is working on PA-Israel conflict

Crown prince Salman, el-Sisi - and Israel - plan a mega city connecting Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Trump's deal is also on the table.

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Yochanan Visser,

Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Yochanan Visser is an independent journalist/analyst who worked for many years as Middle East correspondent for Western in Arizona and was a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant. He authored a book in the Dutch language about the cognitive war against Israel and now lives in Gush Etzion. He writes a twice weekly analysis of current issues for Arutz Sheva.

He has been called the most dangerous man in the world, an aggressive and ambitious man.

We’re talking about the Middle East’s rising star, 32-year-old Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

MBS, as he’s called by the media, will probably become Saudi’s new king this year because his ailing father King Salman reportedly suffers from Altzheimer disease and is not able to concentrate on his tasks as monarch anymore.

MBS was in Egypt and the United Kingdom last week on the first leg of a month long trip which will end in the United States. There, he reportedly will focus on US President Donald Trump’s ‘deal of the century’.

During his three-day visit to Cairo, the Saudi crown prince once again showed he’s an out of the box thinker who is seriously working to implement sweeping reforms in Saudi-Arabia, such as religious freedom and women rights.

He reportedly arranged a series of meetings between top Saudi officials and their Israeli counterparts which were also attended by representatives of the Egyptian government - according to the Emirati newspaper Khaleej Times.

Officially, the meetings between the Saudi and Israeli officials dealt with an ambitious plan called Neom.

The plan envisions the creation of a mega city of 26,500 square kilometers (the size of Belgium) which will stretch Saudi Arabia’s northwestern border into Jordan and the southeastern part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

The $500 billion plan includes wind-powered high-tech energy projects and “solar energy, where robots outnumber humans and a cosmopolitan lifestyle offers sports, concerts and fine dining,” according to Arab media.

Neom will feature a bridge across the Gulf of Aqaba as well as hydro-agriculture projects - and this where Israel comes into the picture.

However, the part of the meetings which remained secret dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian Authority conflict.

MBS has become a key-player in the attempts to find an out-of-the-box solution for the century-old conflict and has drawn the ire of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, who was summoned to Riyadh in January.

In Riyadh, Abbas was shown the parameters of US President Donald Trump’s 'deal of the century' and he returned to Ramallah in a state of shock.

The Saudi crown prince reportedly told Abbas he would have to suffice with a Palestinian state ‘minus’.

This meant Israel would retain control over the Jordan valley and would not be required to dismantle any ‘settlement’ in Judea and Samaria.

The final municipal borders of Jerusalem would be determined in bilateral negotiations between the sides, meaning Israel would be given veto-right over any Palestinian plan to establish east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Media later reported that the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis could become the Palestinian capital according to the Saudi-American plan.

In 1995, Abu Dis was earmarked as the site for the building of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

However, at the outset of the so-called Second Intifada, the project was halted because Palestinian lawmakers demanded the Old City of Jerusalem should be the home of the PLC.

The plan states that overall security control over territories of the future Palestinian state would remain in the hands of the IDF according to the Israeli broadcaster Kan, while exchange of territories would not be based on the so-called pre-1967 ‘border’, which is in actuality just the armistice line which ended the fighting in 1948.

The plan envisions land swaps in the northern part of Sinai and includes building a seaport and an airport in the area of the Egyptian city of Rafah according to the Arab paper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed

There’s more.

According to unconfirmed reports, published by pro-Palestinian media, the Trump proposal would also rule out the so-called two-state-solution.

Instead, the deal envisions Egyptian rule over Gaza while Jordan would again be governing parts of the so-called 'West Bank', historic Judea and Samaria, the biblical heartland of Israel.

Israel would furthermore, grant Israeli citizenship to Palestinian Arabs living in Area C of the 'West Bank,' under Israeli jurisdiction according to the Oslo Agreements and where all the Jewish residents and only about 4% of PA Arabs live.

Other reports say Saudi Arabia and Egypt pressured Abbas to accept the Trump/MBS deal.

According to two unnamed PA officials, MBS and Egyptian president Abdel Fatah el-Sisi had “advised” Abbas to accept the plan, but the Palestinian leader is incapable of climbing down from his tree because he would commit political suicide and be a marked man if he gave in to the pressure.

Abbas has called the deal “the slap of the century” and cursed President Trump during a speech given to the Palestinian Central Council on January 15, 2018.

“May your house be destroyed,” an angry Abbas said repeatedly, using an Arabic curse, during his two-hour long tirade adding that the PA would “slap back”.

It won’t stop MBS and the Trump administration from pursuing the plan. After all, the two young men involved, Jared Kushner and MBS, have invested much energy in the deal and are convinced this is the way to tackle the problem.

The Saudi crown prince and president el-Sisi are trying to unify the Palestinian factions ahead of direct negotiations.

“Our aim is to unify political Palestinian leadership so when we are at the negotiation table there will be a unified position,” MBS said during a press conference in Cairo last week.

It remains to be seen whether the Saudi crown prince and el-Sisi have enough clout to advance the plan.

The various Palestinian factions are vehemently opposed to the plan and are preparing to mobilize the Palestinian street for another round of violence and ‘resistance’ ahead of the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Hamas, for example, is planning mass protests along the Israeli border in Gaza, while the PA has turned to Russia and other countries in order to find an alternative to the Trump/MBS deal.

Another possible scenario is that Iran will capitalize on the anger among the Palestinian Arabs and will try to stir up a popular uprising or even war with Israel.

After all, this is what the Islamic Republic of Iran has hoped for, to drive a wedge between the leading Arab countries and the various Palestinian Arab movements.

The increase of shooting attacks in Judea and Samaria and the recent threats made by Hamas leaders such as Ishmail Haniyeh, who said last week the Gaza Strip could once again explode, are new indications the Palestinian Arabs will be driven into Iran’s ‘resistance front’ against Israel.

MBS has ordered Saudi diplomats to brand Hamas a terrorist organization according to Arab media, another indication that Saudi Arabia is opening a new page in its relations with the Palestinian Arabs and Israel.