Originally published in
By Daniel Siryoti
According to one senior Saudi diplomat, until recently, Amman adamantly objected to altering the composition of the Waqf religious council. Jordan has since changed its position amid intense Turkish interference in east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
Israel and Saudi Arabia have been reportedly engaged in secret talks since last December, through American mediation, over including Saudi representatives in the Islamic Waqf Council at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This development has been taking place against the backdrop of US President Donald Trump’s deal of the century, and the plan to apply Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and the large settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria.
Senior Saudi diplomats familiar with the details confirmed to Israel Hayom that “these talks are sensitive and clandestine and have been conducted by small teams of diplomats and security officials from Israel, the US, and Saudi Arabia as part of the Trump administrations’ Peace to Prosperity Middle East initiative.”
According to one senior Saudi diplomat, up until a few months ago the Jordanians – who hold special and exclusive status in managing the Waqf – adamantly objected to any change in the Waqf Council. Amman however has since changed its position amid intense Turkish interference in east Jerusalem and particularly the Temple Mount.
Due to violent incidents at the Gate of Mercy at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount and unrest following the decision by the Israeli Police to place metal detectors at the entrance to the Muslim holy site, the Jordanians decided, in contravention of the Oslo Accords, to include Palestinian representatives in the Waqf Council.
The Palestinian officials who joined the Waqf then opened the door for the Turkish government to establish a presence at the holy site by funding projects to the tune of tens of millions of dollars transferred to Islamist-Turkish non-profit organizations. The funds were approved by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Consequently, the Jordanians have told Israel and the US that the Hashemite Kingdom was now prepared to soften its position on the matter of incorporating Saudi representatives to the Waqf on the following conditions: that Jordan retains its exclusive status on the Mount, that Saudi Arabia transfers millions of dollars in donations to Islamic NGOs operating in east Jerusalem, and that Saudi Arabia also applies diplomatic pressure to expel the Turkish Islamist organizations operating under Palestinian auspices.
A senior Arab diplomat told Israel Hayom: “If the Jordanians allow the Turks to operate unhindered at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, within a matter of years their special status in charge of the Waqf and Muslim holy sites would be relegated to being strictly ‘on paper.’ They need the Saudi’s money and influence to block Erdogan. Israel and the US also have an interest here because they want Saudi support for the US peace plan and Israeli annexation initiative, and because Saudi Arabia can ensure support from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.”
The Arab diplomat added that “it’s still too early to say whether this initiative will indeed come to fruition. The intention is for the Saudi representatives to function strictly as observers, so as not to detract from the Jordanians’ exclusive status.”