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A Negev forum between Netanyahu and the US is developing in Abu Dhabi

The meeting confirms a substantial willingness for dialogue between Arab actors and Israel. The United States aims to expand participants by thinking about Palestine, but above all Saudi Arabia

Senior officials from the United States, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain and Morocco met in Abu Dhabi on January 9 and 10 for the Negev Forum to continue discussions on regional integration — which also goes through the dialogue initiated between Israel and Israel. Arab world. The first concrete decision was that the appointment was renewed for the upcoming ministerial meeting.

Last March, the Negev summit was organized in Sde Boker (a kibbutz was its chosen symbol, a place in the middle of the Israeli desert where the father of the Jewish state, David Ben Gurion, retired from political life). It was an unprecedented regional meeting organized within 72 hours and attended by the US Secretary of State. Anthony Blinken — to deliver a strong message about how much the US is funding certain integration processes.

A key outcome of the meeting was an understanding to create a permanent regional dialogue framework to enhance cooperation, from which other countries would gradually be included in the process. The Negev forum was the most important step initiated by the Biden administration and regional governments to strengthen the Abrahamic covenants and the normalization process between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

The international conference held over the last two days will give continuity and new impetus to the process. It came at a time of relative tension created by the political-campaign activity of one of the far-right ministers. Benjamin Netanyahu Had to incorporate in the new government (to get political stability) – this Started its operation a few days ago. Not even two weeks after taking office Itamar Ben Gvir He visited the al-Aqsa mosque compound, also known as the Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif, ignoring many who advised him to refrain from condemnation and criticism against it – which has come from all corners of the Arab world.

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However, despite the impasse, Abu Dhabi – which was supposed to be Netanyahu’s first stop abroad, but the trip was postponed again – hosted the first meeting of working groups set up as part of the Negev process. Topics of discussion were key regional topics: energy, food and water security; climate change; Education and cultural integration; political and security environment; Economic and technological growth and development.

In this dynamic of Emirates regional dialogue (and beyond, as they demonstrate Some areas of the Russian conflict in Ukraine) country Muhammad bin Saeed It recently announced an $8.7 trillion economic plan for Dubai to boost trade, foreign investment and its role as a global hub over the next decade. Part of the emirate’s strategy is to try to link certain goals with broader political action.

On the other hand, after the Negev summit last spring, it was important to demonstrate that it was not just a meeting, it was structured. An infrastructure and a process geared towards the direct interests of the people and stakeholders involved – among them Palestine, which has so far refused to participate despite being directly invited. Joe Biden During a meeting Mahmood Abbas.

Abu Dhabi doesn’t just use the symbolic opportunity to act as a backdrop; Israel’s new foreign minister Eli Cohen, he responded by voicing his commitment. Although the summit is a legacy of the previous government, it is a strategic priority for Israel from which Netanyahu is unwilling to back down.

Also, the meeting was attended by a US delegation consisting of 40 officials and diplomats: headed by the Counselor of the State Department; Derek Solett, includes statistics from Foggy Bottom, USAID, the Department of Defense, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other government agencies. Earlier, Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates also sent high-level inter-institutional delegations.

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We look forward to concrete project proposals that promote regional integration and cooperation from the working group meetings. US officials are sending a message: they feel the need to demonstrate to the people of the region that these meetings have a concrete meaning in their daily lives and can allow people to achieve important things.

“Preparing for these gatherings is not only symbolic, but speaks to the people of the region about ways to generate clean energy, which provides greater food security, improves people’s access to better healthcare. To ensure that the region is better integrated in terms of security,” a senior foreign ministry official told Barak Ravit. Axios.

The goal—shared by both the Israelis and the Arabs and the Americans—is to transform the Negev dialogue into a form that will last, expand over time, and act as a catalyst for regional integration. The idea of ​​extending Palestinian participation so that it is more or less shared by all, for example, is designed not to change the dynamics of the current issue with Israel, but to transform the summit and its activities into a vector. To improve the living conditions of Palestinians (perhaps triggering fruitful talks with Israel later). It is no coincidence that the State Department’s press release on the meeting focused on the Palestinian issue.

And in light of this, the grand plan to expand the dialogue to Jordan, and above all to Saudi Arabia, would be a historic success. It means the country (and major regional power) that defends Islamic holy sites will sit at the formal negotiating table with the Jewish state. For Saudi Arabia, the Biden administration has been very clear that normalization is a strategic goal to pursue; And this gives inspiration to the shape of the Negev. Further Netanyahu has set this goal One of the results he wants to achieve in foreign policy.

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So it’s not a coincidence Ron Dermer, Israel’s strategic affairs minister, was in Washington on Monday — along with meetings in Abu Dhabi — interviewing senior White House and State Department officials. In the coming days, the US National Security Adviser, Jack Sullivanwill be in Israel.