King Salman welcomed President Trump in a spectacular reception in Riyadh. The warm welcome is an indication of the great changes that are bound to take place in the country.
The king signaled that the restrictions declared by the Wahhabi clergy are no longer the ultimate arbiter of personal behavior and that Saudis are going to have to start respecting the customs of the infidels.
Has the king and his two designated successors made a deal to liberalize Saudi Arabia? And has President Trump told them that there is a price of continued American support?
Well, this would be against the wishes of powerful factions of the Saudi Royal Family, some of whom are closely aligned with the radical Wahhabi clergy. For decades, the (principally) Saudi-funded Wahhabis have poisoned the Ummah with their feudal views.
Saudi Arabia became mega-wealthy only in the 1950s, and the world's Muslims were not violently engaged in many jihads. The Wahhabi clergy and the Saudi-funded mosques they brought with them prepared the soil for al-Qaeda at home and abroad.
The royals are in a very delicate position. The dominant faction, the king, and his two designated successors have to loosen things up gradually, step by step, so as to not put their opponents over the edge into a revolt that would brutally slaughter untold numbers.
President Trump has been rewarded with massive arms purchase worth $109.7 billion. A high-level delegation of Saudis was welcomed on the afternoon of May 1, by President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Mr. Kushner was talking of a $100 billion-plus arms deal that the administration hoped to seal with Saudi Arabia in time to announce it during Mr. Trump's visit to the kingdom this weekend. The two sides discussed a shopping list that included planes, ships and precision-guided bombs. Then an American official raised the idea of the Saudis' buying a sophisticated radar system designed to shoot down ballistic missiles.
Trump’s administration has expressed readiness to dispense with custom in favor of informal, hands-on deal making. It also offers a window into how the administration hopes to change America's position in the Middle East.
The fact is that President Trump's planned nonstop Air Force One flight from Riyadh and Ben Gurion Airport in Israel will be the first publicly known flight between the two nations.
By allowing Israeli airliners to fly over Saudi territory, that would be a good first step toward eventual direct flights, a sign of complete acceptance of Israel as a legitimate nation, which is the only long-term solution to peace between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East.
It is a long path, but there is no alternative to a step at a time, given the delicate political situation of the Saudi royals.
It is clear that President Trump has made a transformational deal, and that the West has a stake in helping it come to fruition.