TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday met with a delegation of journalists from Arab countries, including a well-known Saudi blogger who was attacked by Palestinians in Jerusalem the day before.
Netanyahu apologized to Mohammed Saud for the incident, which saw Palestinians hurl chairs, spit on and curse the Saudi for accepting Israel’s invitation.
During the meeting, Saud sang a Hebrew song by the Israeli poet Leah Goldberg.
Regarding Monday’s assault, the Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson for the Arabic media, Hassan Caabia, told the Times of Israel that Saud understood this was “the real face of the Palestinians.”
“He took it somewhat harshly, but he understood that this is the real face of the Palestinians,” Caabia said.
“It was barbaric and brazen; the Palestinians think [the Temple Mount] is only theirs, and doesn’t belong to the Israelis. … This young man came here to promote peace between the nations. Israel gave him a warm welcome, but the Palestinians wanted to humiliate him,” Caabia said about the harassment.
Footage of the incident that went viral on social media shows Mohammed Saud walking through the Old City’s Arab quarter and on the Temple Mount while chairs and other objects are thrown at him, passersby shout curses and others spit in his face.
His attackers are heard telling Saud that it would be more appropriate for him to “pray with the Jews” and “pray in the synagogue, not in Al-Aqsa Mosque.” One man shouts that he should “keep letting Trump take advantage of him.” Others called him “animal,” “Zionist trash” and “traitor.”
One Arab tried to physically assault Saud but was stopped by others who told him, “Don’t touch him, we are still in Al-Aqsa.”
Three people were arrested on Tuesday in connection with the incident.
In a meeting with US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry later on Tuesday, Netanyahu referred to his sit-down with the Arab journalists. Many of them had told him how “so many in the Arab world want to have peace with Israel, normalization with Israel,” he said.
“They’re not always free to express it, and there’s always opposition,” the prime minister said, “but they expressed that desire.”
He also told the delegation that Israel is “the irreplaceable power” in the Middle East, because without it “the region would collapse.”
“Without Israel, without the things that we do and the things that we stand for and the things that we protect, I think the entire Middle East would collapse to the forces of Islamic radicalism, whether Shiite led by Iran or Sunni radicalism led by Islamic State.”
“It was very important for me to see Arab journalists who recognized the role that Israel plays in their own future and their own security and their own development. And that’s a great development, a great change,” he concluded.
Saud is part of a delegation of six Arab journalists and bloggers, including writers from Jordan and Iraq, invited to Israel this week with “the aim of exposing the journalists — some of whom come from countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel — to Israeli positions on diplomatic and geopolitical issues,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Nizar Amer, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, condemned the protesters.
“We strongly condemn the cruel and immoral behavior of some Palestinians near the Al-Aqsa Mosque toward a Saudi media personality who came to Jerusalem to be a bridge to peace and understanding between peoples,” Amer wrote on Twitter.
Another Foreign Ministry spokesperson described it as a “disgusting welcome.”
“A devout Muslim, coming to pray at a historical mosque, spat on because he accepted an official invitation from Israel,” Ohad Nakash Kaynar wrote.
Saud regularly tweets posts in support of Israel and normalizing ties between his country and the Jewish state.