Most Saudis like Trump

The Middle East Plan and its Consequences : How Trump's move divides the Islamic world

Donald Trump's widely announced Middle East plan was barely presented when the Islamic world divided. On the one hand, sharp criticism from Turkey and Iran, on the other hand, support from Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The US President's move made it clear how deeply divided Muslims are when it comes to the Palestinians. Although the people without a country strictly reject Trump's plan, the governments of the powerful Gulf states and their partners are open to Washington's proposals. For them, the fight against their regional rival Iran is a top priority - that is why good relations with the USA and rapprochement with Israel are more important to them than the future of the Palestinians.

The Turkish government - not to speak well of the leadership in Jerusalem anyway - is annoyed that Trump's plan is giving the Israelis all political and territorial trump cards and confronting the Palestinians with a fait accompli.

The project was a “stillbirth”, declared the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara.

Iran's chief diplomat sees it similarly. Javad Sarif, alluding to Trump's past as a businessman, said the "deal of the century" was the "dream project of a bankrupt real estate agent, but a nightmare for the region and the world".

Saudi Arabia's subdued advocacy

Turkey and Iran will now present themselves even more emphatically than before as true advocates of Muslim interests and protectors of the Palestinians. Recep Tayyip Erdogan started right away. It is unacceptable that Trump wants to make all of Jerusalem the capital of Israel, said the Turkish President: "Jerusalem is holy to the Muslims."

In contrast, important American allies in the Gulf reacted positively. The Saudi Foreign Ministry recognized Trump's efforts and called on the Palestinians to negotiate based on the plan. According to observers, this cautious advocacy comes as little surprise.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's emissaries are said to have urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in recent months to be satisfied with Washington’s offer. Egypt, still a great power in the Arab world, spoke of a contribution to "stability and security in the Middle East".

Yousef al Otaiba, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Washington, praised Trump's "serious initiative". Otaiba and his diplomatic colleagues from Bahrain and Oman even attended the presentation of the plan by Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House.

The assessments of Qatar and Jordan were more cautious. Both states are partners of the US, but stressed that the 1967 borders - which would be more favorable to the Palestinians than Trump's ideas - must remain the basis for all peace efforts.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is in a particularly difficult situation. More than two million Palestinian refugees live there, who, according to US expectations, would have to give up all hopes of returning to their homeland. This means a great challenge for King Abdullah and his rule. Because in Jordan the Palestinians are seen as troublemakers.

Many Arab rulers want a better relationship with Israel

But for the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, what counts above all is the common interest with Israel in reducing Iranian influence in the region. Even if only Egypt and Jordan have diplomatic relations with Israel so far, a better relationship with the Jewish state results in increasing pressure from Arab countries on the Palestinians to agree to far-reaching concessions to Israel.

This course is possible because Arab governments do not have to fear vehement domestic political opposition to a policy that leaves the Palestinians out in the rain.

The people in the Gulf monarchies are far less interested in the fate of their stateless sisters and brothers than they used to be, says Ryan Bohl of the security consultancy Stratfor in a video analysis. This gives the rulers great political freedom of movement: "Governments can interpret Trump's plan in a way that suits their interests."

Most Palestinians and their leadership had not placed much hope in the Arab countries anyway. In a poll last year four out of five Palestinians expressed the belief that their ethnic group would be abandoned by the other Arabs.

The feeling is no accident. When it comes to your concerns - above all a sovereign state - there is little more than dutiful solidarity addresses. To do everything for the Palestinians, even risk a conflict with the USA, does not occur to anyone. Today the attitude is more prevalent: we are tired of it, we have other worries. Finally give some rest.

Only Iran seems to be advocating the Palestinian cause. But Mahmoud Abbas knows all too well that this is not due to real interest. For the mullahs, the Palestinians are little more than a welcome ideological vehicle for their fight against the “Zionist entity”.

For Abbas, betting on Tehran is a tricky one

And relying on Tehran as an ally is tricky. Because that would snub the Arab states. Above all, they fear about their power in the region and fear Tehran's urge to expand.

The Palestinians still have the United Nations and the European Union as partners. Only: The two organizations may campaign for the interests of the stateless people, but they have achieved little in the past decades.

This is a debacle, especially for Abbas. As president, he has long been promising his people an independent, self-determined future - the 84-year-old has achieved next to nothing. Which especially resents the already frustrated youth.

Trump's plan and the helplessness of his own leadership, which has once again become clear, will depress the mood further.

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