Gulf officials dismiss Palestinian cause, attack Iran in video leaked by Israel's Netanyahu

Gulf officials dismiss Palestinian cause, attack Iran in video leaked by Israel's Netanyahu
Officials from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE called Iran the biggest threat in the region and downplayed the Israel-Palestine conflict in the leaked video.
3 min read
14 February, 2019
The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE criticised Iran [Anadolu]

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday released a video in which senior Gulf Arab officials minimise the Palestinian cause and describe Iran as the greatest threat in the Middle East, AP reported. 

The leaked video comes after months of reports that Gulf Arab states have sought normalisation of ties with Israel.

"We grew up talking about the Palestine-Israel dispute as the most important issue," Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled al-Khalifa says in the video taken during a closed meeting at the US-led Middle East summit in Warsaw.

"But then at a later stage, we saw a bigger challenge. We saw a more toxic one, in fact the most toxic in our modern history, which came from the Islamic Republic, from Iran."

Khalifa reportedly secretly met with former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in 2017 to seek diplomatic ties with Israel, which most Arab states have boycotted since the forced displacement of Palestinians during the formation of the state of Israel in 1948.

The Bahraini foreign minister went on to attack the "neo-fascist regime" in Iran, accusing it of plotting attacks in his country and destabilising Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

Netanyahu on Wednesday declared he would use the summit as an opportunity to make public his country's long-rumoured normalisation of ties with Gulf Arab states.

It seems the leaked video is one such opportunity to showcase the essence of the backroom talks the prime minister frequently boasts of.

It featured a series of comments made by officials from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates during a panel discussion at the summit, which Netanyahu said on Tuesday would focus on the role of Iran in the region.

Enmity with Iran is a common denominator for Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Israel, all of whom consider Iran to be their major adversary in the region.

"Every nation has the right to defend itself when it’s challenged by another nation," Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said when asked about Israel's military activity in Syria, where it has frequently attacked Iranian targets with air strikes.

Although most Gulf Arab states have made their animosity toward Iran well known, minimising the importance of the Israel-Palestine conflict is more taboo.

"Who is supporting Hamas and Islamic Jihad and undercutting the Palestinian Authority?" asked Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir. "Iran."

Jubeir accused Iran of hurting the Palestinian cause through its support for militant groups such as Hamas.

The edited, 25-minute video, recorded on a mobile device, was briefly made available to a group of journalists traveling with Netanyahu before it was swiftly removed from YouTube. It was not clear whether the video was intentionally leaked or accidentally uploaded.

It was not clear why the video was taken down, but the decision indicated the Gulf officials featured, whose countries do not have formal relations with Israel, had not consented to its release.

Netanyahu on Wednesday tweeted he hoped the summit would be an opportunity for Arab states and Israel to advance their "common interest of war with Iran".

The tweet was quickly deleted. His office later claimed his comments had been mistranslated from Hebrew, and that he was instead calling for everyone to "combat" Iranian influence.