MANAMA, Bahrain: A prominent Saudi prince harshly criticised Israel at a Bahrain security summit that was remotely attended by Israel’s foreign minister, showing the challenges any further deals between Arab states and Israel face in the absence of an independent Palestinian state.
The fiery remarks by Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud at the Manama Dialogue appeared to catch Israel’s foreign minister off guard, particularly as Israelis receive warm welcomes from officials in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates following agreements to normalise ties.
Left unresolved by those deals, however, is the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians view those pacts as a stab in the back from their fellow Arabs and a betrayal of their cause.
Prince Turki bin Faisal opened his remarks by contrasting what he described as Israel’s perception of being “peace-loving upholders of high moral principles” versus what he described as a far-darker Palestinian reality of living under a “Western colonising” power.
Israel has “incarcerated [Palestinians] in concentration camps under the flimsiest of security accusations – young and old, women and men, who are rotting there without recourse to justice”, Prince Turki said.
“They are demolishing homes as they wish and they assassinate whomever they want.”
The prince also criticised Israel’s undeclared arsenal of nuclear weapons and the Israeli government’s “unleashing their political minions and their media outlets from other countries to denigrate and demonise Saudi Arabia”.
In unusually blunt language, he accused Israel of depicting itself as a “small, existentially threatened country, surrounded by bloodthirsty killers who want to eradicate her from existence”.
“And yet they profess that they want to be friends with Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The prince reiterated the kingdom’s official position that the solution lies in implementing the Arab Peace Initiative, a 2002 Saudi-sponsored deal that offers Israel full ties with all Arab states in return for Palestinian statehood on territory Israel captured in 1967.
“You cannot treat an open wound with palliatives and pain killers,” he remarked.