By Israel Hayom—
Israelis are entitled to live peacefully on their own land, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said Monday, in another public sign that Riyadh and Jerusalem appear to be growing closer.
Asked by U.S. magazine The Atlantic if he believes the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was quoted as saying, “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 stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and home to its holiest shrines, does not officially recognize Israel and has maintained for years that normalizing relations hinges on Israeli withdrawal from lands the Palestinians seek for a future state.
However, news reports over the years have alluded to behind-the-scenes diplomatic and intelligence cooperation between the two countries.
The prince, who is currently touring the United States to drum up investments and support for his efforts to curtail Iranian influence in the Middle East, said, “We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy [al-Aqsa] mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.”
Increased tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia has fueled speculation that shared interests may push Saudi Arabia and Israel to work together against what they see as a common threat from Iran.
“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,” Mohammed said.
Late last month, Saudi Arabia opened its airspace for the first time for a commercial flight to fly over it to Israel. The historic move followed two years of efforts.
Saudi Arabia condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last year, but Arab officials said at the time that Riyadh appears to be on board with a broader U.S. strategy for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan still in its early phases of development.
The prince was asked by interviewer Jeffrey Goldberg about his criticism of Iran and its ideology, and why he claims that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the “new Hitler.”
“I believe that the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good,” the prince said.
“Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. 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.
“In the 1920s and 1930s, no one saw Hitler as a danger. Only a few people. Until it happened. We don’t want to see what happened in Europe happen in the Middle East. We want to stop this through political, economic and intelligence moves. We want to avoid war,” he said.
Asked whether Iran’s aggression in the Middle East was bringing Saudi Arabia and Israel together, Mohammed said, “Israel is a big economy compared to their 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.”