Israeli ambassador slams criticism of Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi murder

Israeli ambassador slams criticism of Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi murder
3 min read
04 November, 2018
Israel has appeared to come to the defence of Saudi Arabia amid sustained global outrage over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Ron Dermer used the opanel discussion to slam Iran, Qatar and Turkey [Getty]

Israel's US ambassador Ron Dermer has slammed almost universal criticial of Saudi Arabia following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month.

Riyadh has faced increased scrutiny since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post who was living in self-imposed exile, was reportedly choked to death by Saudi operatives who later cut up his remains and dissolved them in acid, Turkish officials say.

"It is hard for me to take seriously statements of outrage that (the murder) caused and the calls for a fundamental change to the relationship with Saudi Arabia, when (the same people) supported an agreement that gave an avowed enemy of the US (Iran) hundreds of billions of dollars," Dermer said during a recent panel discussion.

Dermer also aimed shots at Turkey and Qatar for allegedly attempting to drive a wedge between Washington and Riyadh.

"Turkey and Qatar are pressing hard to ruin relationships with Saudi Arabia," he added, while also criticising Doha-based news outlet Al-Jazeera and cautioning the US against throwing away its "strategic relationship" with Saudi Arabia.

The ambassador's comments follow newly-emboldened efforts between Gulf states and Saudi Arabia to increase ties. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit to Oman, which was followed up by a visit of a top Israeli minister to the sultanate.

In the same week, Israeli sports minister Miri Regev visited the UAE to attend an event where Emirtai authorities allowed an Israeli team to compete under the team's national flag for the first time in the Gulf state.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has been accused by observers of covertly increasing cooperation with Israel, despite the two countries having no official diplomatic ties.

Last month, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported that Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE are part of a multi-national intelligence force, based in Jordan's capital.

The task force is constituted of intelligence personnel and special units from 21 countries, who are sharing intelligence information related to the militant organisation, said Yossi Melman, Maariv's intelligence correspondent, quoting the French website Intelligence Online.

Earlier this year, Israel's ambassador to Egypt praised Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, describing him as a partner of Israel in a speech that lauded the "change in Arab countries' treatment towards Israel".

Prince Mohammed, 33, has taken increased control in Saudi Arabia during a period that has been marked by open animosity towards former ally Qatar, a disastrous war in Yemen, and and apparent warming of ties between Riyadh and Tel Aviv.

The heir to the Saudi throne was quoted earlier this year as saying that Israel has a "right" to a homeland, prompting King Salman to scramble to reject his son's declaration.

He also reportedly said Palestinians should accept a peace deal with Israel or "shut up".

King Salman was also forced to intervene more recently following the murder of Khashoggi, when he sacked key aides of Prince Mohammed.

Prince Mohammed, or MbS as he is widely known, has been at the centre of speculation in the Khashoggi affair, with analysts saying that the 33-year-old may have been behind the assassination order.

On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the orders to kill Jamal Khashoggi came from "the highest levels" in Riyadh, however added that he did "not believe for a second" that King Salman was to blame.

Erdogan pointedly failed to absolve Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of responsibility for unleashing a "death squad" against the outspoken Saudi journalist.