Any move to negotiate with Israel would be an "unforgivable mistake," Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday after Saudi Arabia's crown prince said Israelis were entitled to live peacefully on their own land. "Movement toward negotiation with the cheating, lying and oppressive regime [of Israel] is a big, unforgivable mistake that will push back the victory of the people of Palestine," Khamenei said in a statement posted on his official website, as reported by Reuters.
The statement, which did not explicitly name Saudi Arabia, said it was the duty of all Muslims to support Palestinian resistance movements, and it pledged continued Iranian backing for the Palestinian resistance group Hamas.
Khamenei issued Wednesday's statement in reply to a letter he recently received from Palestinian resistance movement Hamas chief Ismail Haniya that criticized the support of Arab governments in the region for the United States.
Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, defended the right of both Palestinians and Israelis to a homeland in an interview Monday with U.S.-based magazine The Atlantic. Speaking to editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, Salman said everyone has the right to live in a peaceful nation.
"I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land," Salman said, adding, "But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations." Since 2002, Saudi Arabia has been the main sponsor of the Arab Peace Initiative, which envisions a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But no such senior Saudi official is known to have previously accepted that Israel has a "right" to any land beyond the practical need to secure a lasting deal.
Increased tension between Tehran and Riyadh has fueled speculation that shared interests may push Saudi Arabia and Israel to work together against what they see as a common Iranian threat. As part of the Saudi-Israeli alliance, Riyadh opened its airspace for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel last month, which an Israeli official hailed as historic following two years of efforts. In November, an Israeli cabinet member disclosed covert contacts with Saudi Arabia, a rare acknowledgment of long-rumored secret dealings that Riyadh still denies.
Saudi King Salman will hand over the throne to his son Muhammad, as he is old, ill and currently unable to function as the sole authority. The 32-year-old crown prince is known to be strongly anti-Iranian and has a good relationship with Israel. Last June, The Times reported that Israelis and Saudis were conducting negotiations to establish economic ties. Quoting Arab and American sources, the paper said the two countries are going to allow their businesses to operate.