JERUSALEM, Israel – In what is being hailed as a first for an Arab leader, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has acknowledged that Israel has a right to land of its own.
His comments came during an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and are the latest sign in a series of friendlier gestures toward Israel from the next generation of Saudi leadership. The kingdom is still technically ruled by the 32-year-old Mohammed's father, King Salman, but the crown prince has become a vocal proponent of change in the oil-rich nation, both domestically and in foreign affairs.
When asked by Goldberg if Israel has a right to a nation-state in the land of its ancestors, Prince Mohammed responded, "I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and Israelis have a 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."
He added, "We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque [al-Aksa] 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."
Prince Mohammed pointed out that "there are a lot of interests we share with Israel" and that "if there is peace there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries [Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates]."
Israel and Saudi Arabia share a common enemy both view as a serious and growing threat: the rulers in Iran. In The Atlantic interview, Prince Mohammed said of Iranian leader Ayatollah Khameinei, "I believe the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good. Hitler didn't do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. The supreme leader is trying to conquer the world."
The crown prince's comments are the latest of a number of indicators that the Saudis are warming to Israel: President Trump flew directly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv on his Middle East tour last year, a commercial airplane was given clearance to fly over Saudi airspace to Israel last month, and in November, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet revealed that there had been contact between the two governments.