Arab ministers praise Israel at controversial Negev summit amid Palestinian anger

Arab ministers praise Israel at controversial Negev summit amid Palestinian anger
Israel has concluded a 'historic' two-day summit meeting with foreign ministers from Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, and the UAE in the Negev region amid condemnation by Palestinians.
3 min read
28 March, 2022
Foreign ministers from Israel, the US, Bahrain, Morocco, the UAE and Egypt met in the Negev [Getty]

A two-day summit that brought together foreign ministers from four Arab countries with their Israeli and US counterparts concluded in the Negev region of southern Israel on Monday.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid praised the summit as "historic" and said the meet would become a regular event.

"Last night we decided to make the Negev Summit into a permanent forum," he declared alongside counterparts from UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, and the US.

The UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco all normalised ties with Israel in 2020 in controversial deals brokered by the former administration of President Donald Trump, while Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

Jordan, which agreed a peace deal with Israel in 1994, was absent however, amid recent strained ties with Israel.

Lapid also invited Palestinians to join future summits.

"We are today opening a door before all the peoples of the region, including the Palestinians, and offering them to replace the way of terror and destruction with a shared future of progress and success," he said.

However, Palestinians have slammed the summit, with protests taking place condemning the visit of Arab foreign ministers to Israel as a "stab in the back".

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said that the summit was a "free reward" to Israel while it continues occupying the West Bank.

The Negev, or Naqab desert where the summit is taking place is home to over 200,000 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel.

Israel has recently attempted to violently seize their lands and demolish their villages, arresting dozens of protesters.

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Lapid added that the summit was aimed at deterring Iran.

"What we are doing here is making history, building a new regional architecture based on progress, technology, religious tolerance, security and intelligence 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."

The UAE's Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed said his counterparts also discussed the crisis in Ukraine.

Both Israel and the UAE have hesitated to denounce Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with the UAE abstaining on a vote condemning Russia at the UN Security Council.

Bin Zayed thanked Lapid for the "warmness" of his welcome. This is the Emirati foreign minister's first visit to Israel and he said that UAE-Israel relations were seeing "continuous growth and development".

Morocco Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said that the summit was the "best response" to attacks by Islamic State group. It follows a shooting in central Israel on Sunday which killed two people and is believed to be committed by Palestinian citizens of Israel with links to IS.