According to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia and Israel are on the path to normalizing their relations. “We are getting closer to this every day, it seems to be something really serious for the first time,” said the crown prince in an interview with the US broadcaster Fox News.

The country’s de facto ruler described a possible agreement with Israel as the “biggest historic deal since the end of the Cold War.” He dismissed reports that negotiations had been suspended as “untrue”.

A few weeks ago, the US government confirmed talks about a possible rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, but dampened expectations. US media had reported that the US and Saudi Arabia had agreed in principle on the outlines of such an agreement. According to this, Saudi Arabia would recognize Israel and in return would receive US security guarantees and help in setting up a civilian nuclear program. To achieve this, Israel would have to make extensive concessions to the Palestinians.

Netanyahu: “Historic peace within reach”

During a conversation with US President Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was optimistic that he would be able to bring about rapprochement together with Biden. A “historic peace” with Saudi Arabia is “within reach,” Netanyahu said. “I believe that such a peace would, first of all, make a great contribution to ending the Arab-Israeli conflict, (…) and to a real peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” said Netanyahu, adding: “With your leadership we can we make history.”

Officially, Riyadh has no relations with Israel, but both countries have secretly been working together on security issues for a long time. For decades, a formal rapprochement seemed all but impossible. The USA is Israel’s protective power and also an important ally for Saudi Arabia. There are still many open questions and high hurdles to a possible breakthrough. This also includes Israel’s right-wing, religious government, where concessions to the Palestinians would be very difficult to enforce.

The Crown Prince emphasized in the television interview that an agreement depends largely on Israel’s dealings with the Palestinians. “If we have a breakthrough in reaching a deal that meets the needs of the Palestinians and calms the region, then we will work with whoever is there.” The lives of Palestinians should become easier, he added. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the largest donors to the Palestinians.

Concern about nuclear arms race

The conversation also discussed Iran’s possible nuclear armament. When asked about this, the Crown Prince said this would be a “bad step.” Nobody can use nuclear weapons. “The world cannot see another Hiroshima.” Any country that uses nuclear weapons is starting a war with the rest of the world. If Tehran were to acquire a nuclear bomb, Saudi Arabia would have to do the same.

The Israeli political scientist Yoel Guzansky rated the crown prince’s statements as very significant. “He confirmed for the first time that the contacts exist, that it is progressing, that it is in the Saudi interest,” Guzansky said. “Until recently he was persona non grata in the West, he was condemned, he was an outsider. Now the whole world is courting him. He will get everything he wants.” However, the prospect that Saudi Arabia could receive permission for civilian use of nuclear power is worrying. The greatest danger in this context is a nuclear arms race throughout the region.