The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has affirmed that Israel has a right to exist, in an interview with the Atlantic released yesterday. Mohammad Bin Salman made his comment in reply to a question which referred to Israel’s alleged ancestral homeland.
“I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation,” explained Bin Salman. “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land… but we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”
Whilst Israel and Saudi Arabia have no formal ties, rumours of covert interaction have surrounded the two states for many months, amid shared public concerns over the threat believed to be posed by Iran. Commenting on the Iranian issue, the Crown Prince hinted at even greater cooperation between the two countries, particularly on the economic front: “Israel is a big economy compared to their [Iran’s] size and it’s a growing economy, and of course there are a lot of interests we share with Israel and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and countries like Egypt and Jordan.”
The prince slammed Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stating that he “makes Hitler look good.”
“Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do,” he declared. “Hitler tried to conquer Europe. This is bad. But the supreme leader is trying to conquer the world. He believes he owns the world. They are both evil guys. He is the Hitler of the Middle East.”
Rumours of Saudi Arabia normalising relations with Israel were brought to the fore once again in November after Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz confessed that Tel Aviv had covert contacts with Riyadh over Iran. Just days before that, Saudi news agency Elaph, which is close to the decision-makers in Riyadh, published an interview with the Israeli army Chief of Staff, Gadi Eisenkot, a step described by Israeli sources as a move to bring Saudi and Israeli relations into the public sphere.
The reports reignited September’s controversy when Twitter account “Mujtahidd” leaked reports stating the alleged desire of the Kingdom to accept Israel “as a brotherly state”. The Saudi public have strongly rejected any attempts at normalising relations with Israel in the past, and such reports prompted concern among many.
However, Saudi officials have maintained that any relations with Israel hinge on Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, including territory which the Palestinians seek for a future state.