Shared worries about Iran a central theme to Israel-hosted regional talks

In that spirit, the participants confirmed that they would try to meet in a different country every year — and that they hoped to welcome more countries to the gatherings in the future.

The 18-hour summit produced no concrete public results, but there were hints of a behind-the-scenes thaw between the United Arab Emirates and the United States after weeks of growing tensions.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, says goodbye as he boards his plane in Sde Boker.Credit:AP

The summit brought together Lapid with the foreign ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and the UAE, along with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. It reflected how Israel has cemented its partnerships with parts of the Arab world.

Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates all normalised diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020, while Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel, in 1979.

A terrorist attack that killed two people Sunday night in northern Israel, just as the ministers were gathering in the south, was a reminder of how Israel’s acceptance by some Arab states has done little to resolve its primary challenge: the conflict with Palestinians.

Israeli activists hold a banner against the “Negev Summit” across from the Kedma hotel where the summit is taking place, in Kibbutz Sde Boker, Israel.

Israeli activists hold a banner against the “Negev Summit” across from the Kedma hotel where the summit is taking place, in Kibbutz Sde Boker, Israel.Credit:AP

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.

The meetings provided a forum to discuss disagreements and shared concerns about the war in Ukraine and gave Blinken a chance to encourage Washington’s Middle Eastern allies to align with efforts to isolate Russia.

Although the United States helped Israel broker the deals with Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, the summit was an indication that Israel could now itself act as a public conduit between Washington and some Arab countries.

By hosting, Israel brought together Blinken and his Emirati counterpart at a time of friction over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The United Arab Emirates has so far dodged US demands to increase its oil production to help American allies find alternatives to Russian gas.

The foreign ministers met as US-backed efforts to secure a new nuclear deal with Iran reach a climax. The meeting gave participants the chance to express concerns to Blinken about aspects of the proposed deal that they deem too lenient.

It also gave the Emirates and Bahrain an opportunity to encourage a distracted Washington to play a more active role in the region — a demand that they consider particularly urgent after recent attacks on Emirati and Saudi infrastructure by an Iranian-backed militia in Yemen that is fighting Saudi-led forces.

Small groups of protesters, standing on a hill opposite the hotel where the summit was held Monday morning, attempted to draw attention to the Palestinians. One group held both a Palestinian and an Israeli flag. Another held a banner that said: “Isn’t someone missing?”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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