By Anthony Harwood  

It’s the deal that resulted in the rather ludicrous scenario of Donald Trump being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for a Middle East pact that’s divided the region as much as united it.

Of course, he’s got no chance of becoming the fifth US President to win the coveted award when the nominees include 210 other people and 107 organisations more deserving.

How can anyone possibly win a peace prize for a Middle East deal that does not include the Palestinians?

Helping Israel to “normalise relations” with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates doesn’t really cut it as an Arab Peace Plan, does it?

But it is textbook Trump who is using divide and rule tactics to get minor Gulf states onside and make the Palestinians look like the unreasonable ones.

It has also managed to unite those two sworn enemies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Three years ago Saudi Arabia, a strong regional ally of UAE and Bahrain, joined the other two in launching a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar which continues to this day.

Riyadh accused the tiny Gulf state of cosying up to its hated regional foe, Iran, and supporting terrorism, which Doha denies.

But on the foolhardiness of this Middle East policy they are united.

Saudi Arabia was the architect of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative that called for normalising relations with Israel – but only in return for an end to its occupation of the Palestinian territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

For an Arab state to now cosy up to Israel for anything less is nothing but a betrayal of the Palestinian people.

This is especially true when it comes seven months after Mr Trump’s one-sided “Deal of the Century” was rejected by the Palestinians because it expanded Israel’s territory by giving it much of the occupied West Bank and permanent control of Jerusalem.

The Saudi ruler, King Salman, now 84, was just 37 years old when in 1973 the country’s then ruler, King Faisal, embargoed the kingdom’s oil exports to the US and other countries because of their support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War.

In a famous video that began trending on Twitter last week, Salman can be seen standing directly behind Faisal the king as he told the world: “If all Arabs agreed to accept the existence of Israel and divide Palestine, we will never join them.”

Support for Palestinian statehood is much stronger in Saudi Arabia than other Arab states, such as Bahrain and the UAE, which are more peripheral.

Riyadh, after all, is the custodian of Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two holiest cities, and has a strong affiliation with the third most important shrine, the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The other Arab country to strongly condemn Trump’s “Abraham Accords” is Qatar, which over the years has ploughed hundreds of millions of pounds into Gaza to support Palestinian communities.

This week the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, used a video address to tell the United National General Assembly that the international community had failed to uphold resolutions against Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and its expansion of settlement building.

“Peace can only be achieved when Israel fully commits to the international terms of reference and resolutions that are accepted by the Arab countries and upon which the Arab Peace Initiative is based,”

he said.

What happens next depends on two things – how long King Salman lives for and who wins the US presidential election.

If Mr Trump prevails in November and, during his second term in office, King Salman is succeeded by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), then you will see a consolidation of his Middle East policy.

Although many of his own people will disagree, MBS has already begun developing a rapprochement policy with Israel and is keen to ally with it against Iran.

But if Joe Biden becomes the 46th President of the United States, the White House will once again be in the hands of someone who believes in a two-state solution as the only way forward for the Middle East.

Now to achieve that really would merit a Nobel Peace Prize.

Anthony Harwood is a former foreign editor of the Daily Mail.