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The "biggest historic deal since the end of the Cold War": Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on a possible agreement with Israel

Photo: Saudi Press Agency / REUTERS

Saudi Arabia and Israel have long been enemies. Under the mediation of the United States, however, the two countries have recently been approaching each other – a normalization of relations is possible. "We're getting closer every day, it seems to be something really serious for the first time," Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview with Fox News.

The country's de facto ruler described a possible agreement with Israel as "the biggest historic deal since the end of the Cold War". Reports that negotiations had been suspended were dismissed by bin Salman as "untrue".

An agreement depends to a large extent on Israel's dealings with the Palestinians, bin Salman stressed. "For us, the Palestinian question is very important. We have to solve this part," he said when asked what would be needed in return for a normalization of relations. If we have a breakthrough in reaching a deal that meets the needs of the Palestinians and reassures the region, then we will work with everyone who is there," the 38-year-old said. The life of the Palestinians should be made easier, he added. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the largest donors to the Palestinians.

Saudi Arabia for Palestinian State

Saudi Arabia has so far insisted on the creation of a Palestinian state. However, parts of Israel's government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reject this. In addition, the right-wing nationalist and ultra-religious government has recently taken a tougher stance on raids in the Palestinian territories. "We have had good negotiations so far," bin Salman said. "We have to see where we go. We hope to reach a place that will make life easier for Palestinians and establish Israel as an actor in the Middle East."

The U.S. is pushing for both countries to end their antagonism. The U.S. government demands concessions from Israel to the Palestinians, while Saudi Arabia is promised security guarantees and aid in the development of nuclear energy. On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, US President Joe Biden met with Netanyahu and also discussed relations with Saudi Arabia.

There is common ground between the two countries in their criticism of Iran's nuclear program. Crown Prince bin Salman expressed concern about indications of Tehran's possible development of a nuclear bomb. "If they get one, we have to get one too," said the Crown Prince.

Iran calls normalization a betrayal and praises its own improvement in relations with Saudi Arabia

Iran's leadership responded to bin Salman's words with fierce criticism. According to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia would constitute a "betrayal of the Palestinian cause." An agreement between "countries in the region and the Zionist regime would be a stab in the back of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian resistance," Raisi told journalists on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Raisi, on the other hand, praised what he described as the currently developing relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The two rival major powers in the region – the Sunni Saudi monarchy and the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran – have also surprisingly converged over the past year under the mediation of China.