Commenting on the Saudi crown prince’s latest interview in which he asserts, in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict, that “each people” have “a right to live in their peaceful nation”, Al Jazeera’s Senior Political Analyst Marwan Bishara says such statements are not new per se.
But according to Bishara, what is more important is the timing of Mohammed bin Salman‘s statements.
The interview was published by the US-based Atlantic magazine on Monday, just days after 17 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during a peaceful march at the Gaza border on Land Day.
“Why now, just when the Israelis are saying we don’t want a two-state solution, just as the Israelis are shooting at Palestinians, expanding and increasing settlements, the illegal settlement-building, when the peace process is not going anywhere, when [US President Donald] Trump has just recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and basically dropping it from negotiations?” Bishara asks.
“This is absolutely the worst time ever to be saying things like that.”
Bishara says recognition of Israel’s existence as a full member of the international community has been firmly established, with the debate now edging towards the legitimacy of the Israeli citizenry’s claim to the land as an indigenous people.
In the interview, the 32-year-old crown prince said Israel has a right to its own land alongside Palestinians.
“I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation,” he said.
He also admitted “there are a lot of interests” that Saudi Arabia shares with Israel.
Bin Salman said that while Saudi Arabia has “religious concerns” about the holy mosque in Jerusalem and the rights of Palestinians, it has no objection “against any other people”.
Arab leaders, Bishara says, have long discussed arrangements whereby ties with Israel would be normalised in exchange for a full withdrawal from territories it occupied in the 1967 war.
What is at stake now is the Jewish population’s intrinsic ties to the land, he says.
“The issue here is recognising [Israel’s] right to exist – and, some would say, its historic right to exist. Do the Jewish people have a historic right to exist in Palestine, meaning that the immigration in the 19th and 20th century was okay, not as a colonial movement but as a people’s right to exist in Palestine?
“I think that was the question.”