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World

Saudi, Israeli officials share fiery attacks at regional conference

  • During a regional conference on Sunday, an influential Saudi prince launched a bitter attack on Israel, and reiterated his strong support for the Palestinian cause.
  • Mutual concerns over Iran gradually brought Israel and Gulf nations closer, as Riyadh had been quietly building relations with the Jewish state since several years.
Updated 07 Dec, 2020

During a regional conference on Sunday, an influential Saudi prince launched a bitter attack on Israel, and reiterated his strong support for the Palestinian cause.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi Intelligence Chief, who is allegedly close with the country's top leadership, broke his silence months after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalised its ties with Israel, condemning the move as a "stab in the back".

At the Manama Dialogue Security forum, al-Faisal gave a fiery speech accusing Israel of depicting itself as a "small, existentially threatened country, surrounded by bloodthirsty killers who want to eradicate her from existence", adding that "yet they profess that they want to be friends with Saudi Arabia".

He described the Jewish state as a "Western colonising power" and outlined a history of forced eviction of Palestinians, adding that "[Palestinians were held] in concentration camps under the flimsiest of security accusations [...] young and old, women and men, who are rotting there without recourse to justice".

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who addressed the video conference shortly after al-Faisal, expressed his "regret" over the comments, stating that "The false accusations of the Saudi representative at the Manama Conference do not reflect the facts or the spirit and changes the region is undergoing".

Ashkenazi added that "I rejected his remarks and emphasised that the 'blame game' era is over. We are at the dawn of a new era. An era of peace".

On the other hand, Prince Turki al-Faisal voiced his scepticism over the U.S-brokered Abraham Accords, adding that the gravitation of Gulf states towards Israel have undermined the Saudi-sponsored 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which postulated that Arab states would not establish relations with the Jewish state until it made peace with the Palestinians.

Ashkenazi stated that the agreements were an opportunity for the Palestinians and offer a "window to solve this conflict", adding that "The Abraham accords do not come at the expense of the Palestinians. Quite the opposite, they are an opportunity that should not be missed".

Despite al-Faisal's aggressive rhetoric and posturing, mutual concerns over Iran gradually brought Israel and Gulf nations closer, as Riyadh had been quietly building relations with the Jewish state since several years. Last month, reports emerged that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held secret talks in Saudi Arabia fuelled speculation - with Riyadh denying that any meeting had occurred.

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