Saudi Arabia and Israeli officials clash at a regional security summit

Saudi Arabia and Israeli officials clash at a regional security summit

MANAMA: Representatives of Saudi Arabia and Israel sparred on Sunday at a regional security summit.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a Saudi former intelligence chief who is said to be close to the country's top leadership, reiterated strong support for the Palestinian cause in a fiery presentation to the Manama Dialogue security forum.

His remarks were met with retorts from the Jewish state's foreign minister who addressed the gathering virtually.

The row erupted months after the UAE and Bahrain broke decades of Arab consensus by normalising ties with Israel, a move condemned as a "stab in the back" by Palestinians.

In unusually blunt language, the Saudi prince 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.

He described the Jewish state as a "Western colonising power" and outlined a history of forcible eviction of Palestinians and destroyed villages.

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," he said.

He said the Israeli authorities are "demolishing homes as they wish, and they assassinate whomever they want."

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi addressed the meeting by videoconference shortly afterwards, expressing his "regret" over the comments, which come after years of covertly warming relations between the two Mideast powers.

"The false accusations of the Saudi representative at the Manama Conference do not reflect the facts or the spirit & changes the region is undergoing," he said in a tweet.

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

Prince Turki, who said his comments reflected his personal view, voiced scepticism over the US-brokered Abraham Accords, to which Washington has been urging the kingdom to sign up.

"You cannot treat an open wound with palliatives and painkillers. The Abraham Accords are not divine writ," he said. -APP/AFP