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Antony Blinken in Israel for a “historic” summit

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) greets his Bahraini counterpart, Abdullatif Ben Rashid Al-Zayani, in Sde Boker in Israel's Negev desert on March 27, 2022.

The foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain, three signatory countries in 2020 of the Abraham Accords, as well as the head of Egyptian diplomacy traveled to Sde Boker, in the Israeli Negev desert, on Sunday March 27, for a summit meeting with their American and Israeli counterparts. Participants arrived in dribs and drabs with their delegations, often by helicopter. A dinner was organized and working sessions took place the following morning. A joint declaration was to be delivered on Monday evening.

This meeting is historic, and it’s a real blow for Israel: it’s the first time that the Jewish state can boast of having welcomed, at home, four members of the Arab League simultaneously. Everything is symbolic in this meeting, however organized in a hurry. The place, first: Sde Boker is one of the last kibbutz still in activity in the country, partly thanks to the income from tourism. It is best known for having been David Ben-Gurion’s main residence for the last twenty years of his life. Sde Boker is the center of the vision of the father of the Jewish state: that of a flowering desert, a lively, optimistic, unifying Zionism, not one that does not know how to choose between occupation and annexation of the West Bank.

Then there is the date, March 27. This falls exactly twenty years after the signing in Beirut of the Arab League peace initiative. This roadmap, adopted by the Palestinians, proposed the normalization of relations with Israel, in exchange for a two-state solution and the right of return for refugees. This summit is therefore a snub, perhaps involuntary, to Arab solidarity on which the Palestinians have relied heavily to advance their cause.

Iran’s nuclear

This summit took place as negotiations aimed at reviving the Iranian nuclear agreement, buried in its time by Donald Trump, seem to be progressing. In 2015, when the original compromise was signed, then-Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went out of his way to torpedo it, arguing it posed an existential threat to the Jewish state. His successors are more pragmatic: they are aware of the negative repercussions this had on relations with the Obama administration and do not seek to repeat the exercise. More important, perhaps: the Israeli leadership has become aware of the fact that Iran has moved closer to the nuclear threshold since the United States left the agreement.

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