Saudi Crown Prince's Statement Means 'Recognition of Israel's Legitimacy' - Prof

© AP Photo / Etienne Oliveau/Pool / Saudi Arabia Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Arabia Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - Sputnik International
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that Israel has a right to a homeland alongside the Palestinians, he was the first Saudi senior official to acknowledge Israel’s right to territory in the region. Sputnik discussed this with Professor Shai Feldman, from the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University.

Sputnik: What is and what is not new in the Crown Prince's statement?

Shai Feldman: What’s new is that this is a Saudi statement about Israel’s legitimacy, this is the recognition of Israel's establishment and that Israel's existence in the Middle East is legitimate. It goes beyond the Saudi initiative which became the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, that basically offered Israel a grand bargain: in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 lines, Arab willingness to make peace with Israel. That statement, however, could be interpreted as accepting Israel as a fact, as an existential fact but not necessarily addressing the issue of whether Israel’s establishment and existence is legitimate in Arab eyes.

This statement by the Crown Prince goes, therefore, beyond the Saudi initiative of 2002 and basically bestows legitimacy upon Israel but, of course, again, the condition is the same condition, which is there has to be a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or at least there has to be significant movement towards a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The main feeling remains the same which is there has to be a contingent in its eyes on some progress, significant progress, from the Israelis, in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; this is a significant step forward.

READ MORE: What's Behind Saudi Crown Prince's Words About Israel's Right to Own Land

Sputnik: And in your view to what extent do the Prince's remarks correspond to the overall Saudi policy towards Israel or is it merely his personal opinion. Tou’ve mentioned a couple of things, perhaps, you can you elaborate a bit more?

Saudi Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud - Sputnik International
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Shai Feldman: I don’t think that in the case of the Crown Prince there is such a thing as a personal view, the Crown Prince is either the second most important person in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today or, some would say, de-facto he is the most important person in Saudi Arabia today because of the particular relationship he has with his father. He's certainly referred to in the entire region and in the entire Gulf Corporation counsel as the most important player in Saudi Arabia, so a statement by the Crown Prince is a statement of Saudi Arabian policy.

Sputnik: Now despite the fact that there are no diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, reports suggest the nations actively interact behind the scenes, what brings this about then that Saudi Arabia now has this openness towards Israel, perhaps, you can just shed some light on that for us.

Shai Feldman: Until now according to different sources there has been some levels of corporation mostly in the realm of intelligence and security, first of all, all interactions that have taken place until now have been very, very quiet, clearly what the Saudi statement implies is that, again, contingent upon progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that there is a willingness to go beyond the very quiet corporation in the realm of defence and intelligence and to expand to other realms, particularly, when we talk about other realms we talk about really the economic realm, this has actually been very consistent and with general change in direction in Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf states of essentially making their economies less dependent on a single commodity called oil and diversifying their economies to services, to technology, to science and so on.

And so, beyond the share of national security interests in containing Iran’s influence in the region and addressing the issue of Islamic terrorism and so on, there’s also a synergy between Israel in the realm of science and technology and the need of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries led by Saudi Arabia to diversify their economies to areas in which Israel has a lot to contribute. This is I think grounds for improving relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, they're multiple, they’re not confined to the defense realm but there can be many other realms including medicine, for example.

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Sputnik: How significant then do you think the Saudi‘s commitment is to the most important question, the two-state solution, can Riyadh play a crucial role in the long standing stalemate do you think?

Shai Feldman: I think absolutely yes, because Saudi Arabia remains able to support the Palestinians financially in any deal; when it will come to the implementation of such a deal, Saudi Arabia has influence in the region, the Crown Prince has influence in the region, of course, the fact that the Saudi‘s continue to die, they suffer whether it was the 2002 version of the offer, or what the Crown Prince has offered now in progress in trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I think it implies that the Saudi‘s remain committed to implementing a two-state solution.

The views and opinions expressed by Shai Feldman are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position.

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