Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, has said in a rare interview with Fox News that his country is getting closer to normalizing relations with Israel every day, but that the Palestinian issue remains a “very important” factor.
US pushes for regional mega-deal
The interview, which aired on Wednesday, came as the US President Joe Biden’s administration is pressing ahead with an effort to broker historic ties between the two regional powerhouses, Washington’s top Middle East allies.
The normalization talks are the centerpiece of complex negotiations that also include possible Israeli concessions to the Palestinians, as well as discussions of US security guarantees and civilian nuclear help that Riyadh has sought.
US officials have privately touted the potential benefits of a regional mega-deal, which would be a foreign policy win as Biden seeks re-election in November 2024.
Palestinian issue is ‘very important’ to Riyadh
MBS told Fox’s Special Report that the Palestinian issue was “very important” to Riyadh.
“We need to solve that part,” he said when asked what it would take to get a normalization agreement.
“We got to see where we go. We hope that will reach a place, that it will ease the life of the Palestinians, get Israel as a player in the Middle East,” he said, speaking in English.
The prince denied reports that the talks had been suspended, saying “every day, we get closer.”
Saudi Arabia has said any deal would require major progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state, which is a hard sell for the most religious and nationalist government in Israel’s history.
Biden and Netanyahu pledge to work together
The broadcast of the crown prince’s comments followed a meeting between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, in which they pledged to work together towards Saudi-Israeli normalization, which could reshape the geopolitics of the Middle East.
Both leaders also said Iran could not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.
MBS also said that if Iran got a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia would “have to get one”.
Saudi Arabia, along with Israel, has long been an adversary of Iran, but relations have improved since Riyadh and Tehran agreed to restore diplomatic relations in March.
Tehran has denied seeking a nuclear weapon, but has been at the center of international suspicions about its nuclear program for years.
MBS’s first US TV interview since 2019
The interview with Fox’s anchor Bret Baier was the royal’s first on US TV since 2019.
Saudi Arabia has been embroiled in controversy, particularly following the crown prince’s alleged role in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The US intelligence community concluded that MBS approved the operation that led to Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The Biden administration imposed sanctions on some Saudi officials involved in the killing, but spared MBS from direct punishment, citing the need to preserve the strategic partnership with Riyadh.