Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was ordered to fly from Paris to Riyadh without delay after the Saudis detained Sabih al-Masri, 80, head of the Arab Bank.
The order to the Palestinian leader came on Saturday, Dec. 16, from the two richest Arab rulers, Saudi crown prince Muhammed bin Salman (MbS) and the UAE emir Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed (MbZ). They told him to interrupt his business engagements in Paris and present himself in the Saudi capital at once. DEBKAfile’s exclusive sources report that the two leaders intended to confront Abu Mazen with an ultimatum – the first ever presented to a Palestinian leader from an Arab quarter – to desist from his public blasts against President Donald Trump’s peace plans, and end his collaboration in this campaign with King Abdullah of Jordan and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
To “persuade” the Palestinian leader that he means business, Prince Muhammad had the Palestinian-Jordanian billionaire Sabih al-Masri, who is also a Saudi citizen, detained when he was on his way to Riyadh airport to fly to Amman. Al-Masri ranks among the most prominent and affluent Palestinian-Jordanian business tycoons. He is the chairman of the Arab Bank, with majority holdings in the Palestinian territories and large investments in the Saudi kingdom. He dominates the Palestinian stock exchange based in Nablus, a town traditionally ruled by the Masri clan. With a prominent role in the Jordanian economy, Sabih Masri is very close to both Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah. Their interests are so intertwined that Al-Masry’s deputy on the board of the Arab Bank in Amman is Dr. Bassem Awadallah, former head of the Jordanian royal court, who carries the title of “King Abdullah’s Special Emissary to Saudi Arabia.”
Al Masry’s arrest was intended to punish both Abu Mazen and the Jordanian king. Earlier this week, MbS is reported to have warned them both not to attend the meeting for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, called by the Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan to organize a broad campaign against President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. The meeting was poorly attended.