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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, was recently reported to have made a startling statement: “Israelis have the right to have their own land”, he said
The “distinctly different” tone adopted toward Israel came as a shock to the Muslim world as the Sunni Arab monarchy had previously stood resolutely against Israel for its denial of a two-state solution.
“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”, Prince Mohammad carefully said.
“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”, he added to mark Sunni Saudi Arabia’s differences of opinion with Shia Iran.
But a divide among the Saudi leaders on the subject of Israel also became visible when the prince’s father, King Salman, quickly bore in on Palestinian rights in a reported telephone call with US President Donald Trump.
The king is said to have restated “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”.
Prince Mohammed down-played the anti-Jewish role by his government’s clerics and textbooks saying, “Our country doesn’t have a problem with Jews”, as he reminded of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) marrying a Jewish woman. He also referred to the many Jews working in the kingdom.
But Jews have never been allowed to build temples or openly practice their religion in Saudi Arabia, which fact tells a different story – one that suggests that Prince Mohammad could soon find himself estranged in his land, leave alone the larger Muslim world, on his call for the acceptance of Israeli perspectives.