Iran’s Khamenei pooh-poohs Arabs normalizing with Israel

As US woos Saudi Arabia toward Israel, supreme leader asserts ties being forced, calls for a Palestinian state to decide ‘how to deal with Zionists’

File - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting with a group of school teachers in Tehran, May 1, 2024. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
File - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting with a group of school teachers in Tehran, May 1, 2024. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that efforts underway to forge a normalization of ties between Israel and Arab countries will not resolve the crisis in the Middle East.

“Some people think that by forcing neighboring countries to normalize their ties [with Israel] the problem will be solved,” said Khamenei.

“They are wrong.”

“Palestine should be returned to [Palestinians],” Khamenei said. “They should form their own regime, their own system, then that system should decide how to deal with the Zionists.”

Khamenei’s remarks came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said Washington is nearly ready with a security package to offer Saudi Arabia if it normalizes relations with Israel.

In Riyadh on a diplomacy trip to the region that also took in Jordan and Israel, Blinken said that the US and Saudi Arabia had done “intense work together” over the past few months towards a normalization accord between the kingdom and Israel, a deal that includes Washington giving Riyadh agreements on bilateral defense and security commitments, as well as nuclear cooperation.

The US and Saudi components of the agreement are “potentially very close to completion,” Blinken said. “To move forward with normalization, two things will be required: calm in Gaza and a credible pathway to a Palestinian state.”

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan (R) receives US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretariat in Riyadh on April 29, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/AFP)

Diplomats say Saudi Arabia had been in talks over a potential normalization with Israel but they were paused when the Gaza war broke out.

It erupted on October 7 when the Palestinian terror group Hamas led a massive cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The roughly 3,000 attackers who burst through the boundary with the Gaza Strip also abducted 253 people of all ages who were taken as hostages in the Palestinian enclave.

Israel retaliated with a military offensive to destroy Hamas, topple its regime in Gaza, and free the hostages of whom 129 remain captive, some believed no longer alive.

At least 34,400 Palestinians have been killed and over 77,600 injured in Gaza since the start of the war, the Hamas-run health ministry in the Strip says.

The figures cannot be independently verified and include some 13,000 Hamas gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Regional tensions have soared since the start of the war, drawing in Iran-backed terror groups in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

The day after the Hamas attack, Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah began near-daily assault along the Israeli-Lebanon including rocket fire at northern towns and communities. Israel hit back at Hezbollah’s military infrastructure in Lebanon and, allegedly, related targets in Syria.

Illustrative: A photographer approaches the remains of a missile that landed on the shore of the Dead Sea, a week after the April 13 missile barrage fired by Iran, on April 21, 2024. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Amid international fright that the conflict could spread, Israel and Iran were indeed drawn into a direct confrontation over an airstrike on Damascus that Tehran blamed on Israel and that killed two senior Iranian military officers along with several others. Iran retaliated by firing hundreds of drones, ballistic and cruise missiles at Israel, almost all of which were intercepted. The handful that got through did only minor damage at an airbase although a young girl was seriously injured by falling shrapnel.

Days later an air-launched missile hit a top Iranian air defense battery near one of Iran’s nuclear facilities in a strike widely attributed to Israel, which has not claimed responsibility. The US has led international efforts to reel the two countries back from a full-blown war.

The Islamic Republic backs Hamas but has denied any direct involvement in the group’s attack on arch-foe Israel.

Iran does not recognize Israel and has made support for the Palestinian cause a centerpiece of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

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