Israel uses meeting with Arab countries to announce new Middle East ‘security apparatus’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Thierry Monasse - Anadolu Agency)

Middle East Monitor  /  March 28, 2022

In what is being portrayed as a ground-breaking summit, top diplomats from Israel, US and four Arab countries, discussed the creation of new security architecture earlier today. Dubbed the “Negev Summit,” Israel’s Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, met with his US counterpart, Antony Blinken, and the Foreign Ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and the UAE. The three Arab countries controversially normalized diplomatic ties with the occupation state in 2020 during the administration of Donald Trump, while Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel, in 1979.

“What we are doing here is making history — building a new regional architecture based on progress, technology, religious tolerance, security and intelligence cooperation,” said Lapid, who organized the conference.

“This new architecture and shared capabilities we are building,” Lapid added, “intimidates and deters our common enemies — first and foremost, Iran and its proxies.” Lapid also mentioned that the summit will become a “regular forum.” However, there are no reports of any formal agreement being signed with the Arab countries on new security architecture.

Embracing fully the so-called Abraham Accords negotiated by Trump, Blinken said that “just a few years ago this gathering would have been impossible to imagine.” The US Secretary of State, however, stated that the Abraham Accords are not a substitute to the Palestinian issue, adding that this issue has been raised during the summit.

Arab governments in attendance also maintained that the summit must make progress on implementing a two-state solution for the Palestinians, with Israeli occupied East Jerusalem as its capital.

The summit took place in Sde Boker, a small desert town in southern Israel that was the final home of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. There was a small protest outside, drawing attention to Israel’s occupation of Palestine. One group held a banner that said: “Isn’t someone missing?” in reference to the Palestinians.

Speaking at a press conference in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian factions described the summit as “the summit of shame in the occupied Negev” and a “stab in the back” of the Palestinian people, who have been enduring “savage” Israeli attacks for more than seven decades.

“The real threat to the Arab people is the Zionist occupation,” insisted the factions. The summit, they said, was aimed at marketing the formation of an Arab-Zionist alliance as an extension to NATO which is facing is biggest challenge in recent history following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Rights group have called on Blinken to use his visit to Israel and Palestine to reaffirm America’s commitment to international law and human rights.

“There is no better moment for Secretary Blinken to show the world that the US will hold Israel to the same standards of international law, forbidding annexation and the unlawful acquisition of territory through the use of force that it is using to demand an end to Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).

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Israel says Negev summit to become regional forum

Middle East Monitor  /  March 28, 2022

Israeli Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, said Monday that the Negev [Naqab]summit held with Arab Foreign Ministers will be turned into a permanent forum, Anadolu News Agency reports.

The summit concluded earlier Monday, with the participation of the Foreign Ministers of Israel, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Morocco and the United States.

“History isn’t written; history is made,” Lapid told a joint press conference with all six diplomats. “What we are doing is building history, a regional architecture based on tolerance and security cooperation,” he said.

“This new architecture, the shared capabilities we are building, intimidates and deters our common enemies – first and foremost, Iran and its proxies,” Lapid added.

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said Washington and other participating countries in the summit “will work together to confront common security challenges and threats, including those from Iran and its proxies.”

“Just a few years ago, this gathering would have been impossible,” Blinken said.

The chief US diplomat also vowed to work on a vision for the Palestinians and Israelis to enjoy “equal measures of freedom, of opportunity, security, of dignity.”

Bahraini Foreign Minister, Abdullatif Al-Zayani, for his part, described the summit as an opportunity to achieve global stability and security.

He also condemned Sunday’s shooting attack in Hadera city in northern Israel, which resulted in the death of two Israeli police officers.

Moroccan Foreign Minister, Naser Bourita, reiterated his country’s support for the two-state solution between the Palestinians and Israelis, with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, said their talks during the summit focused on the importance of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

“We stressed that the two countries (Palestine and Israel) should live together side by side in peace,” he added.

For his part, Emirati Foreign Minister, Abdullah bin Zayed, underlined his country’s support for efforts aimed at achieving peace, security, stability and development in the region.

Bin Zayed noted that more than 300,000 Israelis visited the UAE in the past year and a half.

In 2020, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan signed US-sponsored agreements to normalize relations with Israel, in a move decried by the Palestinians as a “betrayal” of their cause.