Justice Minister Tzipi Livni received compliments on Friday from none other than the former head of Saudi intelligence, the Walla! news website reports.
The incident took place at the international security conference in Munich, where Livni was taking part in a panel with the chief Palestinian Authority (PA) negotiator, Saeb Erekat. In the audience was, among others, Prince Turki Al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia.
During the panel discussion, Walla! reported, Livni and Erekat argued over the issue of mutual recognition of Israel and the future Palestinian state. Livni explained that ending the conflict between the sides must be based on mutual understanding that each country is a national solution for one of the nations.
Erekat, for his part, said the Israeli demand that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state is unacceptable because, he claimed, he represents the Biblical Canaanites who “lived in the region 5,500 years before Joshua Bin-Nun came and burned my hometown Jericho.”
Livni also stressed the importance of security arrangements, according to Walla!, saying that "we will have to be able look at the citizens of Israel in the eye and say that Judea and Samaria will not become a copy of Gaza."
Erekat responded by telling Livni that “no one is persecuting you”, to which the Justice Minister responded by outlining the various terrorist attacks that have taken place recently.
As she finished speaking, Walla! said, the Saudi prince got up and told Livni, “I understand why you are the Israeli negotiator.”
Livni responded by saying, “I wish you could sit with me on stage and talk about it." The Saudi official did not respond to her invitation, the report noted, but at times during the event was seen sitting next to and speaking with former defense minister Ehud Barak, who was in attendance as well.
This was not the first time that the Saudi prince openly spoke with Israeli officials. In December, the same Prince Turki Al-Faisal met and spoke with MK Meir Sheetrit of Livni’s Hatnua party and with Itamar Rabinovich, formerly Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
In recent months there have been reports, mostly by Iranian media outlets, that Israel and Saudi Arabia are strengthening their ties.
In late December the semi-official Fars news agency claimed that a Saudi Arabian delegation had flown to Israel for meetings with high-ranking Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Israel did not respond to the report.
Two weeks earlier, an Iranian report claimed that the head of the Saudi intelligence service met with several senior Israeli security officials, including the head of the Israeli Mossad, in Geneva on November 27.
An earlier Fars report said that Israel and Saudi Arabia had teamed up to launch a virus against Iran’s nuclear program.
A recent report in the British Sunday Times claimed that Israel and Saudi Arabia may team up to fight Iran if talks between Iran and the West fail to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
Saudi Arabia later denied the report, clarifying it "has no relations or contacts with Israel of any kind or at any level.”
Both Israel and Saudi Arabia were among the staunchest international opponents to the deal between Western powers and Iran to scale back elements of Tehran's nuclear program.