Controversial Israeli-Arab Negev Forum to move to Morocco next month

Controversial Israeli-Arab Negev Forum to move to Morocco next month
Israel and its Arab allies will meet in Morocco at the end of June following 2020 normalisation agreements.
3 min read
22 May, 2023
The Negev Forum was launched in March 2022 by then-Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid [Getty]

Foreign ministers from Israel, the US, Morocco, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt are expected to meet in Morocco at the end of June for the second Negev Forum summit, Haaretz reported.

The conference is planned for 25 June, after an earlier date was postponed due to "security-related matters" in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Haaretz said.

Palestinians have witnessed a wave of Israeli violence since the beginning of this year with 157 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and settlers. Retaliatory attacks have left some Israelis dead.

Another reason for the delay was reportedly a dispute between the US and Morocco on where in the kingdom the summit should be held.

Rabat had allegedly proposed to hold the conference in Western Sahara, which is 80 percent under the control of Morocco and a major point of major contention with neighbouring Algeria.

Morocco reportedly normalised ties with Israel in return for the US, under former US President Donald Trump, recognising Rabat's sovereignty over the Western Sahara territory.

Washington now says it preferred the summit be held in an area "not diplomatically controversial".

Reports at the start of this year suggested that Morocco had "demanded" Israel recognise its sovereignty over Western Sahara before opening an embassy in Rabat.

The purpose of the Negev Forum, which was launched as a summit in March last year, is to expand regional economic and security integration for Israel and its Arab allies. Palestinians and other Arabs have strongly condemned the normalisation moves, particularly with the brutal occupation of the West Bank continuing and Israel's stranglehold on Gaza also in place.

The forum was named after the desert in southern Israel where the first meeting took place at an Israeli settlement.

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Israel normalised ties with Morocco, the UAE and Bahrain in 2020, in highly controversial agreements dubbed the Abraham Accords. Israel has had ties with Egypt since 1979.

The Israeli Channel 13 News reported last week that Arab states participating in the Negev Forum had asked Israel and the US to consider changing its name over its clear association with Israel.

Despite the normalisation deals, most Arab countries have condemned Israeli aggression against Palestinians in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, at least 34 Palestinians – including Islamic Jihad commanders and children – were killed in Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Near daily raids in the occupied West Bank have seen dozens of Palestinians arrested, wounded and killed.

Israeli extremists - including serving National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir - stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Sunday.

Arab countries - including Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain - condemned the incident.

Gulf states Saudi Arabia and Qatar - which do not share ties with Israel - also condemned the storming of Islam’s third holiest site.