JERUSALEM, Israel – A prominent Saudi Prince sharply criticized Israel Sunday while speaking at a virtual security summit in Bahrain.
Prince Turki al-Faisal, who served as ambassador to the US and UK, characterized the Israeli government as the “last of the Western colonizing parts of the Middle East.”
"From the time of the Balfour Declaration, they have forcibly evicted the inhabitants of Palestine after the 1948 war, as attested to by Israeli historians. They burned the villages of the Palestinians to the ground. They repeated that calumny after the 1967 war when more of the inhabitants of what remained after the 1948 war were equally dispossessed of their lands,” al-Faisal said.
He also charged Israel with arresting thousands of Palestinians, imprisoning Arabs in “concentration camps,” demolishing homes at whim, and assassinating whoever they want to.
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Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel’s Foreign Minister, also attended the security forum. He shot back at the Saudi Prince’s accusations.
"At the beginning of my remark, I would like to express my regret on the comments of the Saudi representative, the foreign minister, I don't believe that they reflect the spirit and the changes taking place in the Middle East,” he said.
Ashkenazi reiterated the Israeli position that the Palestinians are to blame for the absence of peace.
“We have a choice here with the Palestinians whether to solve it or not, or to go to this blame game,” said Ashkenazi.
Dore Gold, a former UN ambassador and president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said at the summit that Faisal’s comments were “accusations of the past – many of which are false.”
“Shifts in how we look at the Middle East, given the emotions our countries have been through, are very difficult,” Gold said. “I turn to Prince Turki al-Faisal because I believe he comes from a country that has the ability to lead the region in a very positive direction. But we have to decide. Do we want to be caught up in the accusations of the past, many of which are false, or do we want to present the younger generation in the Middle East with a positive vision and really give leadership a better future? I prefer the latter.”
The summit comes at a time when the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East is rapidly shifting due to the historic Abraham Accords. For the first time in decades, Israel has established diplomatic relations with its Arab and Muslim neighbors, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan.
The Trump administration, which spearheaded the Abraham Accords, has suggested that Saudi Arabia could soon make peace with Israel. Saudi Arabia has opened its airspace to Israeli airliners to fly to and from Gulf States since the creation of the accords. The Saudi kingdom has long maintained that it will not establish formal diplomatic ties with Israel until there is a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
However, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has signaled he is willing to quietly engage with Israel if it means deterring their common rival – Iran.
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