On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader expressed that a significant step towards normalization with Israel is drawing nearer. He also cautioned that if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon first, the kingdom would pursue one as well. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman clarified in an interview with Fox News that talks brokered by the US with Israel have not been suspended.
“The proximity increases every day,” remarked the prince, who is widely recognized as the de facto leader of the kingdom.
However, he emphasized the importance of making further progress in securing the rights of Palestinians. This concern arises as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-leaning government continues its controversial pursuit of settlements in the occupied West Bank.
“We consider the Palestinian issue to be of utmost importance. Resolving that aspect is crucial,” he stated, according to excerpts from the Fox News interview.
While Israel has established normalized relations with five Arab nations, Saudi Arabia’s recognition is viewed as a significant milestone in Middle East diplomacy, given its role as the guardian of Islam’s two holiest sites.
Both Saudi Arabia and Israel, along with other Arab states, share a common antipathy towards Iran, which is a Shiite clerical state and a frequent rival to the Saudis.
During the interview, the crown prince, often referred to as MBS, reiterated the warning that Saudi Arabia would pursue nuclear capabilities if Iran were to acquire them.
“If they acquire one, we will have to as well,” he affirmed.
Reports suggest that Saudi Arabia has been seeking security assurances, potentially including a treaty, from the United States in exchange for normalizing relations with Israel.
Iran consistently denies any intent to develop nuclear weapons, although it has exceeded agreed-upon limits on uranium enrichment since former President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 international agreement that placed restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions.
It’s worth noting that Israel is considered the only nuclear-armed state in the region, although it has not officially declared its nuclear capabilities.