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Is 'sanctuary plan' behind Trump’s Jerusalem move?

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Israeli forces detain a Palestinian man during clashes with Palestinian protesters north of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, December 22, 2017 (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as the "capital" of Israel is a prelude to the so-called sanctuary plan, which aims to expel Palestinians from their land, a Middle East expert says.

Analyst Bill Law wrote in an article published on al-Jazeera website on Sunday that the decision was the first step in the grand plan to close, in Trump's words, "the ultimate deal."

The plan, which is put forward by Trump’s special adviser Jared Kushner to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would see a new Palestinian state created by combining the Gaza Strip with North Sinai.

Under the plan, Palestinian towns and cities across the occupied West Bank, now being increasingly encircled by Israeli settlements, would fall under the jurisdiction of Jordan, he added.

“The plan anticipates an exodus of Palestinians to Sinai from the West Bank, from a terribly overcrowded Gaza and from Israel thus defusing the demographic time bomb the Israelis would face if they declared a one-state solution with equal rights for all, a democracy where Palestinians would inevitably become the majority,” the analyst argued.

“For their part, the Saudis would commit hundreds of millions of dollars to support the project.”

Driven by succession plans and the failure of the aggressive policies of the Riyadh regime, Bin Salman has engaged in a process of normalizing relations with Israel.

US President Donald Trump delivers a statement on Jerusalem al-Quds from the White House in Washington DC, December 6, 2017. (AFP photo)

Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law and entered the White House largely because of that relationship, has been causing unease among professionals in the US politics with his reckless forays into Middle Eastern politics. The 36-year-old has had no prior career in diplomacy or governance and, like his father-in-law, was in real estate before Trump won the presidential election in November 2016.

Lately, Kushner has been in substantial contact with officials in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, reportedly forging a close relationship with young but powerful leaders in those countries.

In mid-November, a Lebanese paper published a classified document that showed the Saudis were willing to normalize relations with Israel as part of a US-led Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and unite Saudi-allied countries against Iran.

The document, published by the Al-Akhbar daily, was a letter from Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir to Bin Salman, explaining why it was in the kingdom’s interest to normalize relations with Israel. The letter goes on to say that a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel has risks for the kingdom due to the strength of the Palestinian cause among Muslims.

Elsewhere in the article, the analyst wrote that Israel’s minister for intelligence transport, Israel Katz, had already pushed the idea of building an artificial island off the coast of Gaza in order to sever the enclave from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Katz with his transport minister's cap on has already offered to build an artificial island off the coast of Gaza that would serve as an airport and transport hub for the new state,” he said, adding, “That the sanctuary plan flies in the face of reality on the ground seems to have escaped Katz, MBS and Kushner.”


At the end of the article, the author indicates some barriers to implementing the plan, stressing that the Palestinians are not likely to be gang-pressed into abandoning their decades-long struggle for their homeland. Nor are Egyptians living in North Sinai going to take well being forcibly relocated west of Suez, he noted.

“And will President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, already stung by criticism for giving up two islands to the Saudis, offer up a big chunk of the Sinai Peninsula? Finally, where will the increasingly cash-strapped Saudis find the money to fund this madcap enterprise?”

The author concludes by saying that the Americans, Israelis and Saudis will push the region into "proxy war" in order to counter growing Iranian influence.

“For now, though, the real danger remains the heightened anxiety over the growing clout of Iran in the region, one that could lead the Israelis, the Saudis and the Americans into a full-scale proxy war.”

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