03/28/2022, 13.52
ISRAEL - GULF
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From the Negev summit, a permanent forum between Israel and the Gulf nations

The two-day meeting in Ben Gurion's symbolic land has come to an end. The United States, Bahrain, Morocco, the Emirates (and Egypt) were also present. At the centre of the talks was the "threat" posed by Iran and its allies, with the Palestinian issue virtually absent. Chancellor of the Patriarchate: "divergent interests" at stake, but it could represent "a step in the right direction". 

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The "Negev summit" will become a "permanent regional forum", with "regular" meetings between member countries, organised and hosted according to a criterion of rotation among the participating nations.

During the two-day event in the desert, Israel, the United States and a group of Arab nations laid the foundations for direct and long-lasting relations, involving [for now] the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt.

The announcement was made by the foreign ministers of the respective countries during a joint press conference at the end of the event in Israel, which focused on regional security and the "threat" posed by Iran and its allies. 

Fr. Davide Meli, chancellor of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told AsiaNews, "The fact that some people were invited to the meeting and others were not has raised concerns" and shown how "divergent interests" are emerging on various sides. There are those who see in this meeting [in the Negev] a step in the right direction," continues the priest, "but there is no shortage of critical and contrary voices," especially among Palestinians.

"On both sides there are people of good will who want to cooperate to unblock a situation that has been stalled for some time," he continued. In this sense, "the meeting scheduled today between the King of Jordan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should be read. There have been attempts to revive the issue, but the pandemic has also affected these efforts" of diplomacy. "There are, however, people of good will who are trying to carry on a dialogue". 

Yesterday and today Israel hosted an important regional summit, unthinkable until a few years ago and the result of the "Abrahamic Agreements" sponsored by former US President Donald Trump, with the participation of the US, the Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco (and Egypt). The discussion centred on current Middle Eastern issues, with a particular focus on Iran's nuclear programme and the implications for the nations in the area. The venue for the meeting was a hotel in Sde Boker, in the Negev desert, linked to the founder of the State Ben Gurion, confirming the not only political but also symbolic value of an appointment - at the level of foreign ministers - that has no precedent for Israel. 

Yesterday, the Israeli Prime Minister - who today tested positive for Covid-19 and is in solitary confinement - made a reference to Cairo and the summit at the opening of the government meeting. Naftali Bennett stressed that in the Negev "the old peace with Egypt meets the new one of the "Abraham Accords", with a strong anti-Iranian connotation considered by Israel itself and the Gulf bloc as the main threat to regional stability. Greatly absent is the nation that represents the heart of Sunni Islam, Saudi Arabia, which so far has not even joined the pact sponsored by Trump, but which is closely following events. The Jewish state and the Wahhabi kingdom have recently strengthened their defence and intelligence partnership in order to curb the ayatollahs' nuclear programme. 

Analysts and local experts point out that cooperation between Israel and the Gulf nations, or at least some of them, seems inevitable. The Times of Israel explains that "the United States has other concerns" and the fear is that it "underestimates the danger posed by Iran" with which the Biden administration wants to close the nuclear agreement with concessions, including the removal of the Pasdaran from terrorist groups.

On the other hand, local Islamic extremist groups and Palestinian movements in Gaza, including Hamas, condemn the Negev summit as a "stab in the back" by Muslim nations. Last night's attack in Hadera, in the centre of Israel, claimed by the Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis), is also to be seen in this light, but there are doubts about the authenticity of the proclamation. Two Israelis died in the gun attack and three others were wounded, while the two assailants were "neutralised" in the firefight with other intervening agents. 

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