A first-of-its-kind public debate between a former Saudi spy chief and a former Israeli head of military intelligence is set to take place Monday in the Belgian city of Brussels.
Prince Turki bin Faisal al-Saud, the director of the General Intelligence of Saudi Arabia from 1979 to 2001, will discuss pressing foreign and security policy issues facing Middle Eastern countries with Amos Yadlin, who headed Israel’s military intelligence between 2006 and 2010 after serving as deputy commander of the Israeli Air Force.
Al-Saud, the youngest son of the late King Faisal, served as the kingdom’s ambassador to the United States between 2005 and 2007. He currently serves as the chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh and has given many lectures on relations between Saudi Arabia and the West.
The debate between al-Saud and Yadlin, who currently heads the Institute for National Security Studies think tank in Tel Aviv, will be moderated by Washington Post columnist and David Ignatius. It will be live streamed at 2:00 p.m., Israel time, by the German Marshall Fund of the United States
Monday’s debate will not be al-Saud’s first brush with Israeli officials. In February, during a Munich Security Conference panel discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, al-Saud praised Justice Minister Tzipi Livni for her efforts to achieve a final status agreement.
Al-Saud told Livni warmly that he understood “why you are the negotiator for Israel.” He was later reportedly seen sitting next to, and in discussion with, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak.
Al-Saud is a strong backer of the Arab Peace Initiative and has been critical in the past of Israel’s cool response to the proposal. In 2010, at the same Munich conference, he had a public row with then-deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon over Saudi donations to the Palestinian government. The two men later publicly apologized and shook hands.
Although Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have formal relations, both are staunch allies of the US and are deeply opposed to the Iranian regime’s nuclear program. In recent years, numerous media reports have surfaced alleging back-channel communications between the two countries.
Gavriel Fiske contributed to this report