Hindustan Surkhiyan Desk:Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said in a published interview that Israelis are entitled to live peacefully on their own land, another public sign of an apparent thawing in ties between the two countries.
Asked if he believes the Jewish people have a right to a nation state in at least part of their ancestral homeland, Mohammed bin Salman was quoted by US magazine The Atlantic 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 the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”
However King Salman reiterated Saudi Arabia’s support for a Palestinian state after his son’s statement.
The king also emphasised the need to advance the peace process in a phone call with US President Donald Trump on Monday night, made after Israeli security forces killed 16 Palestinians last week during a demonstration along the Israel-Gaza border.
King Salman reaffirmed “the kingdom’s steadfast position towards the Palestinian issue and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital”, state news agency SPA said yesterday.
Saudi Arabia – birthplace of Islam and site of its holiest shrines – does not officially recognise Israel. It has maintained for years that normalizing relations hinges on an Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war – territory Palestinians seek for a future state.
“We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy 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,” said Prince Mohammed, who is touring the United States to drum up investments and support for his efforts to contain Iranian influence.
No senior Saudi official is known to have previously accepted that Israel has a right to any land beyond the practical need to secure a lasting deal.
Saudi Arabia opened its air space for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel last month, which an Israeli official hailed as historic following two years of efforts.
In November, an Israeli cabinet member disclosed covert contacts with Saudi Arabia, a rare acknowledgment of long-rumoured secret dealings which Riyadh still denies.
Saudi Arabia condemned Trump’s move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last year. But Arab officials told Reuters at the time that Riyadh appears to be on board with a broader US strategy for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan still in its early phases of development.