Knocking Saudis, Khamenei calls interacting with Israel ‘betrayal,’ backs Hamas
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Knocking Saudis, Khamenei calls interacting with Israel ‘betrayal,’ backs Hamas

In apparent reference to crown prince’s favorable comments on Israel, Iranian leader condemns ‘unforgettable error’ of negotiating with Jewish state

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with Iranian officials, participants of the 31st International Islamic Unity Conference and ambassadors from Islamic countries, in Tehran, Iran, December 6, 2017. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with Iranian officials, participants of the 31st International Islamic Unity Conference and ambassadors from Islamic countries, in Tehran, Iran, December 6, 2017. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP

In thinly veiled criticism of Saudi Arabia, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday said those who negotiate with Israel are engaging in an act of “betrayal” and an “unforgettable error.”

The Iranian supreme leader also vowed to support Hamas in its fight against the Jewish state in a letter to the Gaza terrorist group’s leader Ismail Haniyeh.

The statements by Khamenei came two days after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recognized Israel’s right to exist and extolled the prospect of future diplomatic relations between his kingdom and the Jewish state, following a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, attends a meeting at the United Nations in New York, March 27, 2018. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP)

The 32-year-old Saudi crown prince had personally ripped into Khamenei in his interview with The Atlantic, published earlier this week, saying he “makes Hitler look good.”

In a series of tweets on Wednesday evening, Khamenei said that negotiating with “the deceptive, lying, & usurper regime (Israel) is an unforgettable error that will impede the victory of the Palestinian nation.”

“The act of betrayal by some Arab heads of states — which is gradually being revealed — pursues the same goal,” he added, ostensibly referencing Saudi Arabia, among other Sunni states who have quietly improved their relations with Israel in recent years.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have no official relations and the kingdom does not recognize the Jewish state. Israel has hinted at clandestine ties with Saudi Arabia in recent years, stressing the two countries share an interest in countering Iran. The rumors of covert relations have been denied by Saudi officials. Still, a Saudi general visited Jerusalem in 2016 and met with Israeli lawmakers, and Saudi officials have met with Israeli officials on several occasions in public; Saudi Arabia also last month allowed Air India to fly to and from Tel Aviv via its airspace.

The Iranian supreme leader went on to affirm that the Palestinian issue is central to “the return of dignity and power to the Islamic nation,” and that armed resistance against Israel is the “only way to free oppressed Palestine.”

In the letter to Haniyeh, which was posted on his official website, Khamenei expressed his support for the terror group amid the ongoing Palestinian protests on the Israel-Gaza border.

“We feel it is our responsibility to support you, in any forms as needed.
This is a religious duty, and a humane responsibility, which goes beyond political events and changes; we will, God willing, continue performing this duty, like before,” he wrote.

On Friday, over 30,000 Palestinians demonstrated along the Gaza border, in what Israel describes as a riot orchestrated by the Hamas terrorist group, which rules Gaza and is sworn to Israel’s destruction, and what Palestinians say was supposed to be a peaceful protest.

There were discrepancies in Palestinian reports on the Gaza death toll from Friday. While Hamas claimed Monday that 18 had died, the official news agency of the Palestinian Authority had the number at 16. Israel has no official death toll figures. Over 1,000 were reported injured.

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said on Saturday that all those killed were engaged in violence. Manelis said on Friday evening that the army had faced “a violent, terrorist demonstration at six points” along the fence. He said the IDF used “pinpoint fire” wherever there were attempts to breach or damage the security fence. The IDF on Saturday named and detailed 10 of the dead as members of terror groups including Hamas. Islamic Jihad later claimed an eleventh.

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