SDE BOKER, ISRAEL: The top diplomats of the United States and four Arab countries convened in Israel on Monday in a display of unity against Iran but also used the rare summit to press their host to revive long-stalled peacemaking with the Palestinians.
Concluding the two days of discussions at a desert retreat where its founding father David Ben-Gurion is buried, Israel said the event would be repeated and expanded as it builds up commercial and security ties with like-minded Arab states.
“This new architecture – the shared capabilities we are building – intimidates and deters our common enemies, first and foremost Iran and its proxies,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said alongside his US, Emirati, Bahrani, Moroccan and Egyptian counterparts.
Israel to host ‘historic summit’ of US, Arab diplomats
Israel and some Arab countries worry than an emerging nuclear deal with Iran will leave the Persian power with the means to build a bomb and bolster Tehran-backed fighters.
The United States and other world powers see restoring a 2015 Iranian nuclear deal as their best option. But US Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered Washington’s regional allies reassurances in the event that diplomacy failed.
“As neighbours and, in the case of the United States, as friends, we will also work together to confront common security challenges and threats, including those from Iran and its proxies,” he said.
The UAE, Bahrain and Morocco normalised ties with Israel under a 2020 US initiative known as the Abraham Accords. Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel.
While hailing the accords, Blinken added: “We have to be clear that these regional peace agreements are not a substitute for progress between Palestinians and Israelis”.
Like the Arab countries present, the United States wants a two-state solution whereby Palestinians would gain statehood alongside Israel. Talks to that end stalled in 2014. Israel has settled much of the occupied West Bank.
The cross-partisan coalition government of nationalist Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said conditions are not right for any renewal of diplomacy with the Palestinians – who, for their part, have placed the onus on Israel.
“Unless the occupation ends, Arab normalisation meetings are nothing but an illusion and free reward for Israel,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told his cabinet on Monday.