This week, the foreign ministers of four Arab states, Israel, and the US Secretary of State, met in the Negev Desert for a historic regional summit—strengthening ties between former enemies as they face a growing threat from a common foe—Iran.
The foreign ministers of Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the US Secretary of State, met in Sde Boker (an Israeli town in the Negev Desert) for what is being hailed as the first "Negev Summit," a forum the leaders intend to make ongoing and permanent. The two-day summit's location had special significance—Sde Boker is the former home of the father of modern Israel, David Ben Gurion, and is also where he is buried. It overlooks the largest machtesh (like a crater) in the world.
Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that together they are building "a new regional architecture based on progress, technology, religious tolerance, security, and intelligence cooperation. This new architecture, the shared capabilities we are building, intimidates and deters our common enemies – first and foremost Iran and its proxies. They certainly have something to fear."
At a joint press conference after the meeting, Lapid, along with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the foreign ministers of Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco, and the UAE, all condemned the recent string of terror attacks in Israel. In a little more than a week, there have been four attacks and a total of 11 people murdered and several wounded.
"It was murder for the sake of murder, terror for the sake of terror," Lapid said. And he said that while the terrorists want to create panic and stop the progress being made between Israel and her Arab neighbors, "they will not succeed…(we will continue on the) path of peace."
The door that opened with the Abraham Accords just a few short years ago under the Trump Administration has now resulted in Israel and her former enemies sitting down to work together—IN Israel.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that "once-impossible things have become possible." He called it a "new dawn" and pledged that the US would continue to support the growth of these regional ties economically and diplomatically and would support its allies as they confront common enemies, such as Iran. However, Blinken also stressed that he hadn't lost sight of the Palestinians and his commitment to making sure they enjoy "equal measures" of prosperity and security along with Israel.
UAE chief diplomat Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan was very pleased with the growing relationships between Israel and her Middle East neighbors. For decades, only Egypt and Jordan have had any diplomatic ties with Israel—and at times, even those connections have been strained.
"Even though Israel has been in this region for a very long time, this is our first time. We haven't known one another. It's new for Abdullatif and Nasser and I to be in Israel," al Nahyan said, referring to the other Arab foreign ministers present. He also praised Egypt, who "showed us leadership 43 years ago" in normalizing relations with Israel. "We lost those 43 years, (now) we are just trying to follow your footsteps," he said, looking at Egypt's foreign minister.
For years the Arabs decried Jews in the Middle East, but they have come to see that Israel can help them achieve prosperity and security.