Saturday, February 06, 2010

Saudi prince shakes Israeli diplomat's hand

Stop the presses! We have another story of an Israeli shaking hands with an Arab leader - and this time, it was in public!

The New York Times explains:
A handshake between an Israeli politician and a Saudi prince settled an unusual public diplomatic spat on Saturday about the seating arrangements at an international security conference.

Ayalon had accused Turki, a former Saudi intelligence chief and envoy to Washington and London, of orchestrating a decision to keep him off a panel involving other regional powers meant to discuss the security of the Middle East.

Ayalon began his talk saying it appeared "a representative of a country with a lot of oil" had pressed the organisers to separate the panel because he "did not want to sit with us."

This showed a lack of mutual respect and tolerance, a failing at the heart of the region's problems, he said.

In the subsequent question and answer session, Turki stood up in the audience and said it was not he who had objected and the splitting of the panel was probably due to Ayalon's "boorish behaviour" with Turkey's envoy to Israel.

Ayalon responded to Turki saying Turki had called into question his integrity. He added: "If indeed it was not him who objected to my being here with him, I would welcome him to shake my outstetched hand."

Turki approached the podium, Ayalon descended from it and the men grasped hands.

So far, I haven't seen any mention of this in the Saudi press. Stay tuned. I have a feeling that it will not go over well in the Kingdom.