Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office leaked video of Gulf Arab ministers slamming Iran during a closed-door session of a Middle East conference in Warsaw, Israeli media reported Friday.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states – which do not recognize Israel – sent top diplomats to attend this week’s conference alongside Netanyahu, something the prime minister and his U.S. ally have talked up as a new regional axis against Iran.
Israeli correspondents who travelled with Netanyahu to the two-day conference said that the prime minister had hinted to them during a briefing that his staff had footage of Gulf ministers addressing a session on Iran on Wednesday.
Israel’s Maariv newspaper said that the following day, “the prime minister’s office posted (and shortly thereafter deleted) a video from the closed introductory panel about Iran.”
On Friday, the Haaretz newspaper ran what it said were leaked clips, in one of which Bahrain’s foreign minister is seen saying that Iran poses a “more toxic challenge” to the region than Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Netanyahu’s office declined to comment to AFP.
‘More Toxic Than Palestine’
“We grew up talking about the Palestine-Israel dispute as the most important issue,” Foreign Minister Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa tells fellow delegates.
“But then, at a later stage, we saw a bigger challenge, more toxic – in fact the most toxic in our modern history – which came from the Islamic republic.
“If it wasn’t for the toxic money, guns and foot soldiers of the Islamic republic, I think that we would have been much closer today in solving this issue with Israel.”
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) February 14, 2019
Bahrain is the staunchest Gulf supporter of Saudi Arabia’s tough line against Shiite Iran.
The small but strategic kingdom is mostly Shiite, according to unofficial estimates, and its Sunni rulers blame Iran for decades of Shiite-led protests that flared up again in 2011.
The Enemy of My Enemy
In another clip published by Haaretz, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir accuses Iran of spreading “mischief” throughout the region.
“Building ballistic missiles and giving them to terrorist organizations is unacceptable and there are resolutions that say Iran should be punished for that,” he said.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly accused Iran of providing weapons to Huthi rebels in Yemen who have been battling a Saudi-led intervention force since 2015. Tehran denies the allegation.
Though Saudi Arabia and Israel have no official diplomatic ties, they share a determination to limit the expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East.
Netanyahu praised the conference organized by Washington in the Polish capital as a “historical turning point” for the region.
“An Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of the leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” he told reporters on Thursday.
The official Twitter account of the Israeli Prime Minister also quoted Netanyahu on Thursday saying the states meeting in Poland have a “common interest of war with Iran.”
The tweet has since been deleted and replaced with a second translation, reading “the common interest of combating Iran.”
Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, said the U.S.-organized conference aimed to “normalize” the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory in line with the staunchly pro-Israel policy adopted by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who was in the Black Sea resort of Sochi for talks with his Russian and Turkish counterparts on the future of Syria, dismissed it as an “empty result.”
More on the Subject
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were expected Wednesday in Warsaw for a 60-nation conference that they hope will raise the international stakes for Iran.
But the two-day conference will also lay bare divisions, with major European allies of the United States sending low-profile representatives amid opposition to President Donald Trump’s strident calls to strangle Iran’s economy.
While much of the schedule remained vague, the main session will take place Thursday when Pence, Pompeo, and Netanyahu all deliver remarks and working groups are assigned to discuss areas of concern.