Saudi Arabia’s crown prince affirmed Israel’s right to exist in a widely publicized interview on Monday. The comments reflect a growing relationship between the two Middle Eastern nations.
Still, the comments were shocking. After all, Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations.
What did the prince say?
Speaking to The Atlantic in a candid interview, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he believes the Israelis and Palestinians both "have the right to have their own land."
"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,” he said.
The 32-year-old crowd prince added that his nation has no religious objections to a Jewish 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,” he said.
"Our country doesn’t have a problem with Jews,” the crown prince added, explaining Islam’s prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman.
Currently, Saudi Arabia doesn't maintain formal diplomatic relations with Israel, and has said for years that cooperation between the two nations would require Israel to relinquish lands conquered during the 1967 Middle East War, also known as the Six-Day War.
But it appears that may soon change. Crown Prince Mohammed, who became heir to the Saudi crown last July, has made huge efforts to modernize Saudi Arabia, including loosening many societal restrictions. Shortly after his ascension, Saudi Arabia announced that women would be granted the right to drive.
In his interview with The Atlantic, the crown prince voiced his desires for further reforms, but expresses Saudi Arabia would need to do it their way — not the American way — so as to not splinter the country.
What does Iran have to do with it?
Crown Prince Mohammed has not hidden his disdain for the Iranian regime or his displeasure with former President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. The Atlantic asked the crown prince whether or not he believes having Iran as a mutual enemy is pulling his country closer to Israel. MbS replied:
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.
During the interview, the crown prince said Iran's Supreme Leader — Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — "makes Hitler look good."
"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," Crown Prince Mohammed said.
"In the 1920s and 1930s, no one saw Hitler as a danger. Only a few people. Until it happened," the crown prince explained. "We don’t want to see what happened in Europe happen in the Middle East. We want to stop this through political moves, economic moves, intelligence moves. We want to avoid war."