Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that Muslim countries that are normalizing with Israel are “betting on a losing horse,” state-run media reported Tuesday, as regional rival Saudi Arabia moves toward establishing ties with Jerusalem.
Khamenei also predicted Israel would soon be eradicated, in an address to government officials and ambassadors from Muslim countries Tuesday.
“The definitive stance of the Islamic Republic is that the governments which prioritize the gamble of normalization with the Zionist regime will incur losses,” he said in remarks carried by Iran’s state-run and semi-official media.
“As the Europeans say, they are betting on a losing horse,” Khamenei said. “Today, the situation of the Zionist regime is not one that should motivate closeness to it; they shouldn’t make this mistake.”
Responding to Khamenei, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Iran would not derail Israeli efforts to normalize relations with additional Arab and Muslim nations, amid US efforts to broker a peace agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
“While the terror regime of Khamenei sows destruction and carnage, Israel is advancing progress and peace,” Netanyahu said in a video statement while vacationing in the north.
“Just like Iran did not prevent us from achieving the Abraham Accords, Iran will also not prevent us from expanding further the circle of peace for the good of the citizens of Israel, peoples of the region and humanity as a whole,” the premier added, referring to a series of US-backed normalization deals in 2020.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also hit back at the Iranian leader.
“The murderous terror regime in Iran has succeeded already in tearing apart several countries it controls, and now it is trying to sabotage peace efforts with empty threats,” he said in a statement.
“Iran will continue to act to spread terror and destruction, and Israel to achieve security for its citizens and peace in the Middle East,” Gallant added.
Iran, which recently restored diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, has repeatedly warned its erstwhile enemy and other Muslim countries against a US-backed normalization process with regional foe Israel.
On Sunday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said normalization efforts with Israel are “reactionary and regressive.”
In his speech Tuesday, Khamenei also predicted Palestinians would destroy Israel, which he called a “cancer.”
“This cancer will certainly, God willing, be eradicated by the hands of the Palestinian people and the resistance forces throughout the region,” he said.
The prospects of an Israel-Saudi peace deal have seemingly increased in recent weeks. On Friday, the White House said that a “basic framework” for such a deal is already in place and in the past week, two Israeli ministers have visited the Islamic kingdom.
Tehran and Riyadh recently ended a seven-year rift in a Chinese-brokered rapprochement. But tensions over the war in Yemen resurfaced last week after an attack blamed on Iran-backed Houthi rebels killed four soldiers who were patrolling Saudi Arabia’s southern border. The soldiers were from Bahrain, a close Saudi ally, and Bahrain blamed the Houthis, who have not publicly acknowledged the attack.
On Monday, a Saudi soccer team refused to play an Iranian team in Tehran because of the presence of statues of the slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani at the stadium.