While much of the Arab world predictably reacted with outrage to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a number of leading Arab intellectuals took a very different position.
Among them was Abdulhameed Hakeem, head of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
While Riyadh publicly decried Trump’s announcement, the Saudi regime did not engage in long-winded rants against Israeli control over Jerusalem, prompting many to wonder where the oil-rich kingdom really stood on the issue.
In an interview on the US-based al-Hurra Arabic-language TV channel, Hakeem tried to clarify why Trump’s decision actually met with muted acceptance, even some degree of appreciation, in Saudi Arabia:
“The decision will prompt a positive shock towards moving the stagnant water surrounding negotiations. We, as Arabs, have to come an understanding with the other side and know what its demands are so that we can succeed in peace negotiation efforts.”
Hakeem even went so far as to recognize the historical and religious connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem:
“We have to admit and realize that Jerusalem is a religious symbol for the Jews that is just as holy for them as Mecca and Medina are for Muslims.
“Arab mentality must free itself from the heritage of Gamal Abdel Nasser and political Islam of both the Sunni and Shia sects, which has instilled for purely political interests the culture of hating Jews and denying their historic right in the region.”
The positions held by Hakeem and other Saudi intellectuals like him is one of the reasons Israelis are increasingly open to Saudi Arabia taking a leading role in the Middle East peace process.
PHOTO: Palestinians burn photos of the “Zionist” Trump after he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)