Last week, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman made headlines in an interview when he acknowledged that Israelis “have the right to their own land.” Jonathan Tobin cautions against exaggerating the significance of this statement:
While important, it should also be understood what the statement from the prince—popularly known as “MBS”—doesn’t mean. His comments shouldn’t be confused with a formal declaration of Saudi recognition of the Jewish state. . . . It’s also true that Saudi outreach to Israel is not entirely new. The Saudis put forth a proposal in 2002 that called for recognition of Israel and ending the conflict. But that so-called Arab peace initiative had its flaws. Initially, it linked peace to the “right of return” for descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees from Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. Since then, the Saudis have dropped that part and made the proposed plan more acceptable to Israel, and it remains a talking point for some on the Jewish left who insist that there is an offer on the table that Israel hasn’t embraced.
That isn’t true, as Israel has informally discussed the initiative with the Saudis for years. However, the explanation for the failure of the plan and the motivation for the crown prince’s latest Western charm offensive rests primarily in the failure of the Palestinians to take the hint with respect to Israel. . . .
The key event preceding the Saudi crown prince’s statement came earlier this year when, in the aftermath of the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Mahmoud Abbas journeyed to Riyadh. The message he reportedly got there was a Saudi demand that he accept what the United States was offering in terms of a two-state solution. The Saudis even offered serious financial support for him if he was willing to make peace and become part of an anti-Iran alliance. Abbas’s reply was that no Palestinian leader could accept such a deal. . . .
So when MBS spoke of a Jewish right to a “land,” he wasn’t so much speaking to Donald Trump or Benjamin Netanyahu, who realize that the Saudis look to Israel as an ally against an Iranian foe that they, as the prince stated, regard as worse than Hitler. Rather, it was a message to Abbas, Hamas, and the Palestinian people, emphasizing that if they are determined to persist in their century-old war on Zionism, then they can do it without any help from the Saudis.
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