Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has expressed that the kingdom is steadily progressing towards normalising relations with Israel.
He also issued a warning that Saudi Arabia might pursue nuclear weapons if Iran acquires them.
During an interview with Fox News, the Saudi Crown Prince dismissed reports suggesting that negotiations for normalizing ties with Israel had been halted. He emphasized the ongoing momentum in these discussions, stating, “Every day we get closer, it seems it’s for the first time real one serious. We get to see how it goes.” He underscored the importance of addressing the Palestinian issue, describing it as “very important.”
This interview coincides with efforts by the Biden-led U.S. administration to facilitate historic ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, two key Middle East allies of Washington. The normalization talks are at the core of intricate negotiations that encompass U.S. security guarantees, civilian nuclear assistance sought by Riyadh, and potential concessions by Israel to the Palestinians.
Regarding the Palestinian matter, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often referred to as MBS, emphasized its significance, saying, “For us, the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to solve that part,” adding that there is a robust negotiation strategy in place.
Expressing concerns about Iran, a common adversary of Saudi Arabia and Israel, MBS raised the issue of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. He cautioned against such a development, stating, “That’s a bad move.” He noted that if Iran were to possess nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia would feel compelled to obtain them for security reasons and to maintain a balance of power in the Middle East. However, he clarified that such an outcome is undesirable.
While U.S. officials acknowledge that significant challenges remain, they see potential advantages in a regional mega-deal. These benefits include reducing tensions in the Arab-Israeli conflict, bolstering defenses against Iran, countering China’s influence in the Gulf, and scoring a foreign policy win for President Biden as he eyes re-election in 2024.
The broadcast of Crown Prince MBS’s comments coincided with a highly anticipated meeting between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During the meeting, both leaders pledged to collaborate on Israeli-Saudi normalization, which has the potential to reshape Middle Eastern geopolitics. They also shared the view that Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.
Despite their previous hostility, Saudi Arabia and Iran had agreed in Chinese-brokered talks in March to restore relations, and Crown Prince MBS expressed hope for continued progress in their relationship.
Responding to criticism from the U.S., Crown Prince MBS defended OPEC+’s decision to reduce oil output, stating that it was aimed at maintaining market stability rather than assisting energy-dependent Russia in its conflict in Ukraine. Regarding Russia’s military campaign, he expressed disapproval but maintained a position of neutrality.
One of the challenges in brokering a comprehensive deal lies in meeting Crown Prince MBS’s demands. He reportedly seeks a treaty committing the U.S. to defend Saudi Arabia if attacked, as well as advanced weapons and support for a civilian nuclear program. Additionally, he is advocating for significant concessions to the Palestinians, aligning with President Biden’s objectives, but potentially conflicting with the policies of Israel’s far-right government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu.