Communications Minister Ayoub Kara tweeted on Monday that he welcomed comments by Saudi Arabia’s most senior Islamic authority, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, in which the mufti had condemned war and the killing of Jews.
Kara’s tweet praised the mufti for saying that “Hamas is a terrorist organization that hurts the Palestinians and the al-Aksa Mosque protests are a form of demagoguery.”
According to Daily Sabah, a Turkish newspaper, the mufti had appeared on a television program and was asked about fighting against Israel. The mufti responded that Hamas is a terrorist organization.
The Mufti was also asked about the wave of protests that swept Jerusalem after the state placed metal detectors at the gates to the al-Aksa compound in July.
“Also it is possible to cooperate with the IDF to eliminate Hezbollah,” Kara tweeted. “I invite the Mufti to visit Israel and be welcomed with honor.”
The Mufti has been an outspoken critic of extremism and terrorism.
In October he welcomed the creation of a new center in Saudi Arabia’s Medina called the King Salman Complex for the Prophet’s Hadith.
It aims to “eliminate fake and extremist texts and any texts that contradict the teachings of Islam and justify the committing of crimes, murders and terrorist acts.”
According to The National in the UAE, the Mufti said he hoped that people would study proper Islamic teachings, “to liberate people from the darkness of thought, the extremism and misinterpretation of the Koran.”
It is not the first time the Grand Mufti has alluded to “demagoguery” in discussing Palestinians.
In August 2014, according to Alghadeer TV, he called on citizens to support Palestinians with humanitarian aid and not to march in the streets, which he deemed “mobs” and “exaggerations.”
Since Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies broke relations with Qatar, relations with Hamas have cooled.
Hamas’s foreign relations chief Osama Hamdan told Al-Mayadeen in May that “our relationship with Saudi Arabia is at a standstill at the moment.”
In August, Saudi newspaper Al Riyadh described Hamas as a terrorist organization and condemned Hamas relations with Iran.
On November 7 Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visited Saudi Arabia and received support from King Salman. Abbas recently signed a reconciliation agreement with Hamas in Cairo in October.
The comments by the Mufti and positive perceptions of Saudi Arabia’s policy among some Israelis appear to come in this broader context, including Riyadh’s recent tough stance against Hezbollah and Iran’s meddling in Lebanon.