The former Israeli and Saudi intelligence chiefs met in public in New York City, where they discussed current issues in the Middle East.
The former director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, Efraim Halevy, and the former head of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Directorate, Prince Turki al-Faisal, had a meeting and publicly debated US foreign policy in an unprecedented event Sunday at a New York City synagogue.
The meeting took place in the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center shortly after the government of Saudi Arabia denied Sunday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently visited Israel for secret meetings with Israeli government officials. The Saudi denial followed reports in Israeli media regarding the alleged visit.
At the New York event, al-Faisal attributed the rumors to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “mistaken impression.”
“I don’t think there are any ‘under the table’ talks,” said the former Saudi intelligence chief. “I think Mr. Netanyahu painted a picture for himself in which there are some clandestine understandings between the two countries because of Iran, and is thus trying to present supposed support from the Arab world in order to encircle Iran while avoiding the Palestinian issue altogether.”
“What I heard from Saudi officials and from what I can glean from looking at the international arena, there are currently no talks between Israel and any Arab states,” al-Faisal added.
Halevy caught his Saudi counterpart off guard by recounting an attempted secret meeting that nearly took place in London in the 1970s between then-Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban and al-Faisal’s predecessor, Kamal Adham.
“A colleague of mine failed to wake Eban up in time, so he missed the meeting,” said Halevy. “I always regretted that incident. Maybe things would look differently today.”