Date: 22/08/2022 Time: 11:01
By Pinhas Inbari
Last week there was an event that didn’t catch the attention it deserved. The Jordanian crown prince, Prince Hussein, engaged with Najwa bint Khaled al-Seif from Sudeir, in the heart of Saudi Arabia. The Sudeir region is the nucleus of the Saudi royal family, and the dynasty of Saudi kings is determined by the Sudeiri mothers. This is the area considered the heart of Najd, where the capital Riyadh is located. Najwa’s mother is reportedly a Saudi princess, although we don’t know of her. The engagement ceremony was attended by Saudi princes: the fiancé’s uncles on her mother’s side.
This means that the next Queen of Jordan will be a Saudi from the very of the House of Saud and the Hashemite dynasty will develop in the direction of a continuation of Saudi Arabia – and not Palestine.
But it is still too early to congratulate a deal done and given the circumstances in which the ceremony took place, it is not certain that the House of Saud is happy with the new family connection. First, the King of Jordan was not accepted by anyone from the royal house, neither King Salman himself nor Crown Prince Muhammad, although the husband-to-be is a corresponding bin Salman, and the minimum politeness must at least welcome the guests from Jordan. Only after the celebration, perhaps because of doubts that arose, which could have damaged relations, did the office of Mohammed bin Salman post a tweet (!) of congratulations. In addition, despite the prominent participation of Queen Rania, the fiancée’s mother, the Saudi princess, did not attend the ceremony.
Although the fiancé’s uncles participated, their names were not published, and their photos were not visible. King Abdullah and Queen Rania reportedly visited Saudi Arabia several times for secret visits, and now it turns out that they were against the backdrop of the engagement. The fiancée’s family could not have given its blessing without the blessing of the King of Saudi Arabia, and apparently, there were difficulties, and only after they were resolved could the ceremony be carried out. What might be the difficulties that disturbed the House of Saud, and have not yet been resolved? The difficulties stem from the status of the Hashemites in Mecca in the Hejaz on the one hand and the status that Saudi Arabia seeks for itself in Jerusalem on the other. The Hashemite family ruled Mecca for centuries as sheriffs and then as kings of the Hijaz until it was expelled from Mecca in 1925 by the Saudi family.
In Mecca, they were the guardians of the holy places, and after their expulsion from Mecca and their settling in Amman, they retained the title when they declared themselves guardians of al-Aksa, a title that Israel honored in the peace treaties with Jordan as part of the status quo arrangements. As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, the preservation of the title of guardian of the holy places by the Hashemites are interpreted as preserving the desire to return to Mecca. The Hashemite family left many assets in Mecca. Saudi Arabia offered them to buy these properties with good money, but the Hashemites have refused to this day. As long as the Hashemites keep their assets in Mecca and Hejaz in general, the Saudis cannot remove the suspicions against their future intentions. At the same time, during Trump’s initiative, the Saudis demanded the establishment of a new “Wisaya – Guardianship” for al-Aksa, which would include, alongside Jordan, other Muslim powers, led by Saudi Arabia. This part of the Trump initiative caused Jordan’s fierce opposition to the initiative and strengthened its ties with the PLO.
In the debate between Jordan and Israel over the area of the Al-Aksa Haram, Saudi Arabia supports a position close to Israel’s position that the Haram is the mosques themselves, and not the plaza between them, while Jordan claims that the mosques and the plaza including the walls, without explicitly stating that the Western Wall is included in the “walls”. The failed coup planned by Prince Hamzah was allegedly supported by Saudi Arabia, and was a part of the Trump plan, to bring the Hashemite monarchy to a formula consistent with the Saudi formula along with other matters related to the tribes of Jordan.
Saudi Arabia may have allegedly hoped that with the coup of Hamzah, relations with Jordan would be settled according to its perception, and it cannot be ruled out that in the secret talks between King Abdullah and Princess Rania with the Saudis, all these questions were raised. Saudi Arabia’s consent to the engagement indicates that progress may have been made, but the cool attitude towards the ceremony itself, and the disregard for the king’s visit to Riyadh, indicate that even if progress has been made, there is no breakthrough. But there is still a lot of time – until a Sudeiri Saudi queen ascends the throne in Amman, there is enough time to regulate relations. When King Hussein married Abdullah with the Palestinian Rania, he envisioned Jordan’s development into a joint Jordanian-Palestinian crown. This direction caused great discontent among the tribes of Jordan, and because of that many of them supported Prince Hamzah. The engagement with a Sudeiri Saudi and the prominent role of the Palestinian Rania in the new relationship is a “correction of course”. Jordan will not develop in a “Palestinian” direction, but in a “Saudi” direction, and what this means for the tribes of Jordan – on another occasion.
Pinhas Inbari is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper, and currently serves as an analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.