Last May, President Trump, and First Lady Melania Trump made a historic visit to the Middle East, where unlike former President Barack Obama, they received a welcome that was fit for a king. President Trump’s speech at the historic Middle East summit framed the commitment of the United States to work with Middle East nations to defeat radical Islamic terrorism.
In his speech, Trump said Middle Eastern nations ‘can’t wait’ for the U.S. to solve the terror problem for them.
‘Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalization,’ he said.
Trump took pains to isolate Iran in his speech, saying the Islamic Republic is spreading ‘destruction and chaos’ throughout the Middle East and gives terrorists ‘safe harbor, financial backing and the social standing needed for recruitment.’
Will Trump’s influence in the Middle East finally give Israel an ally in the hostile anti-Jew region? Will their common dislike and distrust for the leadership in Iran bring the two nations together? Based on a recent interview with Saudi’s Crown Prince, it appears as though the Crown Prince is certainly open to a relationship with Israel.
Times of Israel – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an interview published Monday, recognized Israel’s right to exist and extolled the prospect of future diplomatic relations between his kingdom and the Jewish state.
In an extensive interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Prince Mohammed laid out his vision for the future of the Middle East, including the possibility of cooperation with Israel.
Asked whether he believes “the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland,” he replied: “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”
However, in keeping with the terms of his kingdom’s regional peace proposal, the Saudi crown prince added that an agreement with the Palestinians was a prerequisite to formal relations. “But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations,” he said.
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.
Discussing whether a shared concern over Iran was bringing Israel and Saudi Arabia together, he said: “Israel is a big economy compared to their size and it’s a growing economy, and of course there are a lot of interests we share with Israel and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and countries like Egypt and Jordan.”
Salman also discussed the threat to the Middle East he said was posed by Iran, even saying that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, “makes Hitler look good.”
“Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. This is bad,” he explained. “But the supreme leader is trying to conquer the world. He believes he owns the world. They are both evil guys. He is the Hitler of the Middle East. In the 1920s and 1930s, no one saw Hitler as a danger. Only a few people. Until it happened. We don’t want to see what happened in Europe happen in the Middle East. We want to stop this through political moves, economic moves, intelligence moves. We want to avoid war.”
Asked about the differences in how former US president Barack Obama and his successor, Donald Trump, chose to deal with the Iranian threat, Salman said that although the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran aimed to curb the Islamic Republic’s fanaticism, it included risks his country could not afford to take.
“President Obama believed that if he gave Iran opportunities to open up, it would change,” Salman explained. “But with a regime based on this ideology, it will not open up soon. Sixty percent of the Iranian economy is controlled by the Revolutionary Guard. The economic benefits of the Iran nuclear deal are not going to the people.
“They took $150 billion after the deal — can you please name one housing project they built with this money? One park? One industrial zone? Can you name for me the highway that they built? I advise them — please show us something that you’re building a highway with $150 billion,” he said. “For Saudi Arabia, there is a 0.1 percent chance that this deal would work to change the country. For President Obama it was 50 percent. But even if there’s a 50 percent chance that it would work, we can’t risk it. The other 50 percent is war. We have to go to a scenario where there is no war.”
In a major Saudi shakeup last year, Prince Mohammed pushed aside his older and more experienced cousin to become first in line to his father’s throne, setting himself up to control Saudi policy for decades to come.