For much of the rest of the world, this might be a Grant’s Tomb question. In this part of the world, just the mention of Israel’s actual name is a major signal, rather than “the Zionist entity,” the common euphemism used by some of its annihilationist neighbors. Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman — MBS to the cognescenti — told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that the Israelis have the right to their land, a rather stunning declaration from the hardline Sunni Arab monarchy, even when paired with the same recognition for Palestinians:
“I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation,” Prince Mohammed told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic. “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”
The establishment of formal relations, he said, would benefit both nations, and their neighbors.
“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,” he said.
Goldberg pushed MBS a little harder on the point, and the prince replied that he has no religious objections to the state of Israel:
Goldberg: You have no religious-based objection to the existence of Israel?
MbS: We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.
Goldberg: Saudi Arabia has traditionally been a place that has produced a lot of anti-Semitic propaganda. Do you think you have a problem with anti-Semitism in your country?
MbS: 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.
Their country doesn’t have a problem with Jews? Ahem. Saudi Arabia has traditionally forbidden Israelis to enter their kingdom, even to transit through to another destination. Aside from Jared Kushner, they haven’t been exactly welcoming to Jews of any nation, either. At times, they have hassled non-Jews with Israeli passport stamps on their entry to Saudi Arabia.
So yes, this is a change, and it’s one for an obvious purpose. Saudi Arabia — or at least Prince Mohammed — doesn’t see Israel as a threat to the royal family’s power and existence. The threat comes from Iran, a threat both nations have in common. Goldberg brings it up, but MBS plays it a little soft, but circles back to the threats facing the Saudis later in the interview: