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Saudi crown prince says Israel could be a ‘potential ally’

But Mohammed bin Salman repeats Riyadh’s position that Palestinian conflict must be solved first; notes there are ‘many interests’ both countries could pursue together

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, speaks during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on December 14, 2021. (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, speaks during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on December 14, 2021. (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said Israel could be a “potential ally” of Riyadh, in remarks published Thursday.

“For us, we hope that the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is solved,” the prince told US monthly magazine The Atlantic, according to remarks carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

“We don’t look at Israel as an enemy, we look to them as a potential ally, with many interests that we can pursue together,” Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler said.

“But we have to solve some issues before we get to that,” he added in a rare interview with foreign media.

Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

But in 2020, two of its main Gulf allies — Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — normalized ties with Israel, becoming the third and fourth Arab states to do so after Egypt and Jordan.

Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyah,(left), then-US president Donald Trump, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan react on the Blue Room Balcony after signing the Abraham Accords during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, on September 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The normalization deals under the US-brokered Abraham Accords angered the Palestinians, who condemned them as a “stab in the back.”

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said it would stick to the decades-old Arab League position of not establishing official ties with Israel until the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.

Prince Mohammed has, however, seemed more open than his father, King Salman, towards Israel, allowing its commercial aircraft to pass through Saudi air space.

Despite the lack of open relations, the two nations are believed to have close clandestine ties, particularly on efforts to block Iran. Reports in November 2020 that Israel’s then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a secret visit to Saudi Arabia also sparked a flurry of speculation.

The kingdom denies that a meeting took place with Prince Mohammed.

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