DUBAI: A prominent Saudi prince on Sunday sharply criticized Israel at a Bahraini defense summit attended by the Israeli foreign minister at a distance, saying the Palestinian government is in no position to make any agreement between the Arab states and Israel independent.
Prince Turki al-Faisal’s outspoken comments in the Manama conversation seemed to hold the Israeli foreign minister unprotected, especially as the Israelis received a warm welcome from Bahraini and United Arab Emirates officials following agreements to normalize relations.
However, the left unresolved by those agreements is a decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians see those deals as a backlash from their fellow Arabs and a betrayal of their cause.
The Turkish prince described his views as a very dark Palestinian reality of living under “Western colonial” power, as opposed to Israel’s notion of “peace-loving people with high moral principles”.
“Israel has imprisoned (Palestinians) in the lowest concentration camps on security charges – young people, the elderly, women and men, they are rotting without seeking justice,” Prince Turki said. “They demolish houses as they please and they massacre whomever they want.”
The prince also criticized Israel’s undeclared nuclear weapons and Israeli governments for “unleashing their political allies and the media from other countries to discredit and demonize Saudi Arabia.”
The prince reiterated the Kingdom’s official position that the solution lies in the implementation of the 2002 Saudi-funded Arab Peace Initiative, which provides full Israeli relations with all Arab countries in exchange for the Palestinian state in the territory occupied by Israel in 1967.
He added: “You cannot treat an open wound with antibiotics and painkillers.”
Speaking immediately after the Turkish prince, Israeli Foreign Minister Kabi Ashkenazi said: “I would like to express my regret over the comments of the Saudi representative.”
“I don’t believe they reflect the spirit and the changes taking place in the Middle East,” he said.
The confrontation between Prince Turki and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the summit demonstrates widespread opposition to Israel by many within Saudi Arabia back and forth, with Jewish groups and Israeli supporters.
Ashkenazi, meanwhile, reiterated Israel’s position that the Palestinians should be blamed for failing to reach a peace agreement.
“It is up to us to decide whether to settle this with the Palestinians or go to this revenge game,” said Ashkenazi, an ally of Netanyahu’s main rival, Penny Kants.
In the audience, Netanyahu’s confidant and former UN ambassador, Dor Gold, described Prince Faisal’s comments as “accusations of the past – many of them false.” The prince then used Gold’s earlier TV shows to “insult the kingdom and use very bad interpretations.”
“I think Mr. Dor Gold should be the last to talk about previous beliefs and positions here,” Prince said.
Prince Turki has been leading Saudi intelligence for more than 20 years and has served as ambassador to the United States and the United Kingdom. Although he no longer holds any official position, his position closely reflects that of King Salman. However, the king’s staunch son, 35 – year – old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, appears to be more than willing to face common rival Iran and increase foreign investment in the kingdom, peacefully with Israel..
Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdulladeep al-Sayyani, who was on the platform for tense exchanges, also sought to soften differences in his views. Nevertheless, he also stressed the importance of a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on a two-state solution planned by the Arab Peace Initiative.
“The path to peace is not an easy ride. There will be a lot of obstacles along the way, ”he said. “There will be ups and downs. But at the bottom of that path, the path to peace, is the Israeli-Palestinian issue. ”
In a blunt reference to Iran, al-Sayyani said the resolution to the conflict would also remove the pretext for justifying certain threats to regional security.