Saudi cleric calls for Muslim-Christian-Jewish peace delegation to Jerusalem

In highly unusual plea, Mohammed al-Issa, an ally of the kingdom’s reformist crown prince, says mission could help ‘provide fertile ground to find solutions’

Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, speaks at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in May 2018 (YouTube screenshot)
Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, speaks at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in May 2018 (YouTube screenshot)

The head of the Saudi-based Muslim World League has called for a Muslim-Christian-Jewish interfaith delegation to travel to Jerusalem to promote the cause of peace by finding common ground between religions.

Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, who is an ally of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, told Fox News in an interview Thursday: “We should send a peace convoy that is representative of all three Abrahamic religions. They should be Muslim, Christian and Jewish and they should visit all holy sites.

“They should meet everyone and find common ground, and they should provide fertile ground to find solutions for peace.”

The call is highly unusual given that Saudi Arabia has no formal diplomatic relations with Israel, and that much of the Arab world does not recognize Israel and rejects its claims to Jerusalem.

The former Saudi justice minister added that such a delegation should be “independent of politics” and “should have no political agenda whatsoever. They will be more influential without a political agenda because they are independent.”

Such a visit “is not from Saudi Arabia and it should not represent Saudi Arabia. It comes from the Muslim world, the Christian world and the Jewish world. It has no relevance to any country whatsoever,” al-Issa said.

The Muslim World League is a non-government organization of Sunni scholars, based in Mecca. Its primary donor is the Saudi Arabian kingdom, according to its website.

The MWL this week hosted World Jewish Congress head Ronald Lauder at its second annual conference for “Cultural Rapprochement Between the US and the Muslim World” in New York.

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Berlin, Saturday, September 13, 2014.(Photo credit: AP/Markus Schreiber)

Al-Issa has in the past spoken out strongly against Holocaust denial — prevalent in the Arab world — calling the Nazi extermination program “among the worst human atrocities ever.”

Israel and Saudi Arabia have no official relations, but officials from the Jewish state have increasingly hinted at covert ties with the Sunni-ruled kingdom as both countries share a common fear of Iran’s attempts to increase its influence in the region.

Bin Salman, a reformist seen as the de facto ruler of the kingdom, has been identified with much of this high-level diplomatic flirtation.

Bin Salman “regards the Palestinian issue as one to sort out but not to block relations with Israel,” Simon Henderson, a Saudi observer and analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Times of Israel in May. “It’s no longer paramount. The paramount issue is Iran.”

In this photo provided by the United Nations, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud speaks during a signing ceremony at the United Nations, Tuesday, March 27, 2018. (Eskinder Debebe/United Nations via AP)

In an interview earlier this year in The Atlantic, Bin Salman seemed to confirm Israel’s right to exist, telling journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that Israelis “have the right to have their own land.”

Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said closer ties between Israel and the Arab world were a silver lining of the otherwise “bad” Iran nuclear deal.

Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that he can see a path to peace with Palestinians through the “normalization” of relations with Arab states, which, like Israel, oppose Iran.

The rumors of covert relations have been denied by Saudi officials. Still, a Saudi general visited Jerusalem in 2016 and met with Israeli lawmakers, and Saudi officials have met with Israeli officials on several occasions in public. Saudi Arabia also this year allowed Air India to fly to and from Tel Aviv via its airspace.

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