The former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, attacked on Sunday Israel at a regional conference in Manama, prompting the Israeli foreign minister to respond to him in a speech he gave via video communication technology.
This comes months after the UAE and Bahrain signed two agreements to normalize relations with Israel, in a move that the Palestinians described as a “stab in the back.”
In strongly-worded statements, Prince Turki Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, head of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, said that Israel presents itself as “a small country suffering from an existential threat surrounded by bloodthirsty killers who wish to eliminate it.”
“Nevertheless, they state their desire to become friends with Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Al-Faisal described Israel as a “Western colonial power”, speaking of Israeli measures, the forcible displacement of Palestinians, and the destruction of villages. Al-Faisal added that the Israelis “demolish homes as they please and assassinate whomever they want.”
For his part, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who participated in the Manama Dialogue through visual communication technology, affirmed that he feels “sorry” for the statements of the former Saudi intelligence chief.
Ashkenazi then described in a tweet on Twitter the statements of Prince Turki Al-Faisal that they “do not reflect the facts or the spirit of change that the region is going through.” “I rejected his statements and emphasized that the era of blaming is over. We are at the dawn of a new era. The era of peace,” he added.
Prince Turki confirmed that his statements represent his personal opinion, and considered that “you cannot treat an open wound with painkillers.”
“An opportunity for the Palestinians”
Ashkenazi said during his participation in the “Manama Dialogue” conference on Sunday, “The Abraham accords do not come at the expense of the Palestinians, but rather the opposite. They constitute an opportunity that should not be missed.”
“I call on the Palestinians to change their minds and enter direct negotiations with us without preconditions. It is the only way to solve this conflict,” he added.
Peace negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian sides have been stalled since 2014.
Prince Faisal bin Farhan told France Press on Saturday that the kingdom’s position remains unchanged.
“We were clear that to move forward with normalization, we have to see a settlement of the Palestinian conflict and a viable Palestinian state, as was envisioned in the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002,” he stressed. “Without a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis, we will not see real peace and stability in the region,” he added.
In response to a question of whether he ruled out establishing ties with the Hebrew state soon, the Saudi foreign minister affirmed that he was “optimistic that there is a path towards a solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”