EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: A United Arab Emirates-backed Saudi effort to wrest control from Jordan of Islam’s holy places in Jerusalem signals a sharper, more overt edge to Saudi religious diplomacy. The kingdom’s quest for regional hegemony risks deepening divides in the Muslim world.
The Saudi effort to take control of Islam’s holy places in Jerusalem serves, among other things, to support President Donald Trump’s plan for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a plan that has split the Muslim world even before it has officially been made public, and that has been clouded by Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
At the very least, Saudi Arabia hopes – at the risk of destabilizing Jordan, where Palestinians account for at least half the country’s almost ten million people – to drop its resistance to the Trump initiative.
Riyadh’s and the UAE’s focus on Jerusalem has broad regional implications as they are battling Turkey for ownership of the Jerusalem issue. Both countries have tried to downplay the significance of two Islamic summits in Istanbul convened by Turkey to counter Trump’s moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem.