Israeli and Saudi officials have been conducting secret talks since December, mediated by the United States, with the aim of integrating representatives from Riyadh onto the Islamic Waqf Council that controls Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Israel Hayom daily reported Monday.
Unnamed senior Saudi officials told Israel Hayom that “these are sensitive and covert contacts that were conducted in ambiguity and low intensity by a limited team of senior diplomats and security officials from Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia as part of the contacts to advance the [White House’s Middle East] plan.”
The Waqf, a Jordanian-appointed council, oversees Muslim holy sites in Al-Quds (Jerusalem). It claims exclusive authority over Al-Aqsa compound and says it is not subject to Israeli jurisdiction.
According to the report, Jordan’s King Abdullah II has changed his mind about altering the makeup of the Waqf after a series of protests last year and the reopening of the Gate of Mercy, a section just off Al Aqsa Mosque.
The move was said to come as Jordan is reportedly increasingly worried by the levels of Turkish influence in Palestinian affairs and matters concerning East Jerusalem.
In February 2019, Jordan decided to bolster the central committee of the Waqf from 11 members to 18, and all seven additions were senior Fatah and PA members.
Israel Hayom said that the new delegates allowed Turkish Islamic organizations to establish organizations at the complex that were funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars by Ankara, under the direct orders of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
According to the report, the new deal being negotiated would see Jordan retain custodianship of Al-Aqsa Mosque, but Saudi Arabia would pump millions of dollars into Islamic organizations in East Al-Quds and at the site, and would apply diplomatic pressure for the Turkish organizations to withdraw.
A senior Arab diplomat, whose name and country of origin were not divulged in the report, told the newspaper that it was in the interests of the Zionist entity and the US to support Saudi Arabia so that the kingdom in turn gave its backing to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, bringing with it the support of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Source: Israeli media