London: Saudi Arabia has banned Muslims from Israel along with the West Bank, and East Jerusalem and also Palestinian immigrants living in Jordan and Lebanon. Three million Palestinians will be barred from visiting the Haj given the Saudi order. Saudi Arabia has justified its decision by saying that these are immigrants and they are not holding permanent passports. Repercussions of this Saudi decision are already visible. An Arabic news agency has alleged that this Saudi action is in connivance with Israel.
Three months ago, the Saudi royal family declared that regulations for the Haj pilgrimage. As per these regulations entry for the Haj pilgrimage will be refused to the people living as refugees or immigrants in other countries. A few weeks ago, these regulations came into force. According to the new rules, the Muslims from Israel and the refugees or immigrants living in other Arab countries will not be allowed for the Haj pilgrimage.
Although West Bank is considered to be a land of Palestine, it does not have recognition as an independent country at the international level. Therefore, the Palestinians living in West Bank and their capital East Jerusalem become refugees. At the same time, the Palestinian refugees travelling the world over on the Jordanian or Lebanese passports also are faced with the ban.
Saudi has not made any announcement in the matter. But the Jordanian government and the Saudi embassy in Jordan has issued instructions to the travel agents arranging Visas, not to process Saudi visa for the Palestinians. The ban includes Arabs and Palestinians living in Israel too. Last year 6,600 Palestinians had completed the Haj pilgrimage. Whereas, every year nearly 70,000 Palestinian immigrants undertake the Haj pilgrimage.
Some media have claimed that this ban is because of the absence of political relations between Saudi and Israel. A few analysts from the Gulf claimed that this problem could be solved if Israel recognised Palestine as an independent country. Whereas, sources in Jordan have accused that this ban on Palestinians has been imposed following an agreement between Israel and Saudi.
The question can also be resolved if Jordan and Lebanon award citizenship to these immigrants. Saudi Arabia is exerting pressure on the Jordanian government to award citizenship to Palestinians in Jordan, East Jerusalem and West Bank. An Arabic news agency informed ‘This will resolve the current problem faced by the Palestinian immigrants. But their paths to return to Palestine will be closed. This could add to the problems faced by Jordan and the other Arab countries. Therefore, Jordan refused to accept the Saudi proposal’.
The governments of Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan, have not reacted in the matter. The Palestinian entry had been banned for the Haj pilgrimage even in 1978. But the then King Hussain of Jordan, had tried to resolve this issue in the Arab League by proposing entry for the Palestinians for the Haj pilgrimage by a temporary travel pass issued by the Jordanian government. His efforts were successful.
Meanwhile, Saudi has openly shown its intentions to establish political relations with Israel. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman had declared that henceforth Saudi would be paying more attention to its interests than the Palestinian issue. This has resulted in a deviation of Saudi policies, and Saudi has also made preparations to collaborate with Israel against the Iranian threat. The Saudi decision regarding the Palestinian immigrants also suggests the same thing.