Israel has a “right” to a homeland alongside the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia’s influential crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, said on Monday in an interview with US magazine The Atlantic.
Asked whether the “Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland,” bin Salman said, “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”
Riyadh has sponsored an initiative supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 2002, but Salman is the first senior official to explicitly acknowledge Israel’s right to any territory in the region.
The 32-year-old prince, who is widely seen as Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader and a reformer, added, “we have to have a peace agreement to assure stability for everyone.”
Speaking to The Atlantic, Salman said he had no “religious objection” to Israelis and Palestinians living together in any permanent settlement.
But any settlement with Israel would, he added, need to ensure protection for the main Islamic holy site in Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Saudi Arabia does not officially recognise Israel and has said any normalisation of relations requires Israel to withdraw its claim to Palestinian territory seized during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
But the crown prince’s acknowledgment marks the latest sign that diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Tel Aviv are growing closer amid their common opposition to mutual regional foe Iran.
Saudi Arabia opened its airspace in March for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel and in November, an Israeli cabinet member confirmed speculation of back-channel communications between the two countries when he admitted that he had secret contacts in Riyadh.