It is always heartening when Arab denial of Israel's legitimacy is pierced. So when the king of Saudi Arabia is seen sitting listening to a speech by the president of Israel at a conference in New York, it may be treated as a sign that the wall of hatred against Zionism has been breached.
But before we get too excited about the sight of King Abdullah listening respectfully while President Shimon Peres speaks, it is necessary to put Saudi actions, and the conference itself, a follow-up to the Saudi-sponsored World Conference on Dialogue, held in July in Madrid, in proper perspective.
For all the nice things said at this event, it cannot be forgotten that its sponsor is among the world's most-repressive regimes. It's fine to talk about interfaith dialogue in New York, but in Abdullah's Riyadh, religious freedom simply doesn't exist. Until it does, Saudi participation in such conferences, let alone their sponsorship, should be dismissed as mere public relations.
Talk of interfaith cooperation is also undermined by the Saudi campaign of financing Islamist institutions around the world. Saudi efforts to spread their intolerant Wahabbi brand of extreme Islam is part and parcel of the growth of support for terror.
In the wake of Sept. 11, the Saudi government has gone all out to change its image. But, until the Saudis stop spreading intolerance, while speaking to the West about peace, we have every right to treat their stance as rank hypocrisy.