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The crown prince of Saudi Arabia said that Israelis have the right to live peacefully in their own land, in another public gesture of rapprochement from Riyadh to Tel Aviv.
Saudi Arabia and Israel still do not have formal diplomatic relations, but behind the scenes, improvements in their ties have accelerated in recent years.
Both countries see Iran as their biggest external threat and the United States as their key ally, and both see the danger of armed Islamist extremists.
However, Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians has proven to be an obstacle to full rapprochement, as Riyadh continues to support its claim to sovereignty.
But now, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – in an interview with the editor in chief of the American magazine The Atlantic,published on Monday (2.04.2018) – placed the claims of Israel on an equal footing.
Jeffrey Goldberg asked the prince if “the Jewish people have the right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral territory.” “I believe that every town, anywhere, has the right to live in their peaceful nation,” said Salman, who is touring the United States for three weeks. “I believe that Palestinians and Israelis have the right to have their own land,” he added. “But we have to get a peace agreement to ensure stability for all and to have normal relations.”
Since 2002, Saudi Arabia has been the main sponsor of the Arab Peace Initiative, which provides for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
However, no senior Saudi official previously accepted that Israel has a “right” to its land, beyond the practical need to ensure a lasting deal.
If, as expected, the crown prince succeeds his father, the octogenarian King Salman, and ascends the Saudi throne, he will also become the guardian of the holiest shrines of Islam.
But Mohamed Salman told Goldberg that he had no “religious objections” to the Israelis living next to the Palestinians, as long as the main Muslim shrine in Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa mosque complex, is protected.
“We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people,” he said. “This is what we have, we have no objection against any other person.”