LondonSaudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman castigated the Palestinian leadership for rejecting opportunities for peace with Israel for decades, and said they should either start accepting peace proposals or “shut up.”
Prince Salman, who is de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia said this at a meeting of Jewish leaders in New York last month, Israeli media reports said.
Citing what it said were multiple sources, Israel’s Channel 10 News on Sunday night quoted the crown prince at the meeting that left those who were present “staggered” by the ferocity of his criticism of the Palestinians.
“For the past 40 years, the Palestinian leadership has missed opportunities again and again, and rejected all the offers it was given,” the Saudi leader reportedly said.
“It’s about time that the Palestinians accept the offers, and agree to come to the negotiating table — or they should shut up and stop complaining,” he reportedly went on.
Prince Salman also told the US Jewish leaders that “the Palestinian issue is not at the top of the Saudi government’s agenda” and elaborated, “There are much more urgent and more important issues to deal with — such as Iran,” according to the TV report.
The TV report dated the meeting to March 27, during the prince’s extensive visit to the US. It did not name those present.
The Saudi Embassy said that the crown prince met with Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Steven Wernick, head of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; and Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union. That meeting also included Christian leaders.
The TV report was based on a cable to the Foreign Ministry from an Israeli diplomat in the New York consulate, who was briefed on the meeting by those present, and three other sources who were familiar with the content of the meeting. One of those present told the TV channel that the group was staggered by what the prince had to say, and all but fell off their chairs.
A number of news reports, including by The New York Times and Reuters, have claimed in recent months that the Saudi crown prince has pressured Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to accept a much-anticipated Trump administration peace proposal.
After he met with Jewish and Christian leaders on March 28, the Saudi Embassy in Washington said the meeting “emphasized the common bond among all people, particularly people of faith, which stresses the importance of tolerance, coexistence, and working together for a better future for all of humanity.”
A statement from the embassy added that “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always, and will continue to champion expanding dialogue, building a better understanding among the faiths, and focusing on the shared humanity of all peoples.”
No specific details of what the faith leaders and crown prince spoke about were released.
In an interview published a few days later, the crown prince 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, the prince 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.”
Asked about anti-Semitism in Saudi Arabia, he said: “Our country doesn’t have a problem with Jews. Our Prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman. Not just a friend — he married her. Our prophet, his neighbors were Jewish. You will find a lot of Jews in Saudi Arabia coming from America, coming from Europe. There are no problems between Christian and Muslims and Jews. We have problems like you would find anywhere in the world, among some people. But the normal sort of problems.”
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.
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 opened its air space for flights to Israel, the first being Air India which began flying to and from Tel Aviv via Saudi airspace, last month.
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 (Sayed) 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”, Saudi prince said.