Morocco postpones controversial Arab-Israeli Negev Forum for the fourth time

Morocco postpones controversial Arab-Israeli Negev Forum for the fourth time
Despite US and Israeli optimism that the Negev Forum would go ahead and keep Israeli integration within the region on track, Morocco has once again postponed the summit.
3 min read
16 June, 2023
Arab states have expressed concerns over publicly engaging with the far-right Israeli government [Getty]

Morocco on Thursday announced the postponement of the Negev Forum for the fourth time.

The long-awaited ministerial summit was originally planned for March but Arab members of the forum expressed concerns about publicly engaging with the far-right Israeli government

The long-awaited summit - which involves the foreign ministers of Egypt, Israel, Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken - was previously postponed three times before it was scheduled for 25 June.

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The Moroccan government informed the US that the most recent deferral was due to the proximity of the meeting to the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, which begins on 28 June.

However, despite US and Israeli optimism that the summit would take place next week, some of the Arab participants have expressed concerns about publicly dealing with the far-right coalition government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to reports.

The Negev Forum was established in March 2022 with the unprecedented meeting of the five participant Arab states that have ties with Israel along with the US and Israel at the Israeli Kibbutz of Sde Boker in the Negev. 

The forum's aim was to be an annual platform for Israeli-Arab normalisation and strengthening cooperation in climate change, economic affairs, and security.

Critics claim the summit is another way for Israel to normalise its mistreatment of Palestinians and illegal occupation of the West Bank, pointing to the lack of participation from any Palestinian representatives.

The first Negev Forum involved Yair Lapid, the centrist former prime minister of Israel. Since then, Netanyahu has won power and formed what many consider to be the most right-wing government coalition in Israel’s history. The government includes a host of far-right anti-Palestinian politicians taking up ministerial positions and pursuing policies that embolden Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory.

With the Abraham Accords and proposed Israeli normalisation with Saudi Arabia also losing momentum, many consider the Israeli far-right government to be a hindrance to the US drive to integrate Israel into the region.

Another area of debate has been the name of the forum.

Arab leaders were said to be unhappy with the sole reference to the Negev in Israel, prompting the US to propose changing the name of the summit to AMENA – the Association of Middle East and North African countries.

However, Morocco has now proposed changing the name to include the word peace to AMENA-PD, with the ‘PD’ standing for “Peace and Development”.

No final decision on the name has been made. Morocco has asked to schedule a new date for the forum in July.