Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states that do not recognise Israel sent top diplomats to attend this week’s conference alongside Netanyahu, something the prime minister and his United States ally have talked up as a new regional axis against Iran.
Israeli correspondents who travelled with Netanyahu to the two-day conference said 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 reported the following day, “the prime minister’s office posted [and shortly thereafter deleted] a video from the closed introductory panel about Iran”.
Netanyahu’s office declined to comment to AFP news agency.
On Friday, the Haaretz newspaper ran what it said were leaked clips, in one of which Bahrain’s foreign minister is heard saying Iran poses a “more toxic challenge” to the region than Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
‘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 told 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.”
Bahrain is the staunchest Gulf supporter of Saudi Arabia’s tough line against Iran.
The small but strategic kingdom is mostly Shia, according to unofficial estimates, and its Sunni rulers blame Iran for decades of Shia-led protests that flared up again in 2011.
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 organisations is unacceptable and there are resolutions that say Iran should be punished for that,” he said.
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.
‘Normalising’ Israeli occupation
The Warsaw conference, in which 60 countries participated, is ostensibly aimed at discussing peace and security in the Middle East, “fight against terrorism”, and missile development and proliferation.
Netanyahu praised the conference organised by Washington in the Polish capital as a “historical turning point” for the region, and posted on Twitter a picture of him sitting next to Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khalid al-Yamani at the opening session.
Netanyahu also held a private meeting with Omani Foreign Minister Yousef bin Alawi bin Abdullah.
“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,” Netanyahu told reporters on Thursday.
Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, said the US-organised conference aimed to “normalise” the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory in line with the staunchly pro-Israel policy adopted by President Donald Trump.
Iranian official news agency IRNA quoted foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying: “On the one hand, the United States is organising a peace and security in the Middle East conference, [and] on the other hand supporting terrorists in the region, increasing hopelessness, poverty and war among the peoples of the region.”
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 the conference as an “empty result”.