DUBAI: Israel participated in one of its “largest” meetings with Arab countries in decades during a forum held in the United Arab Emirates, a US official said on Tuesday.
Around 150 representatives from Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, the UAE and the United States discussed boosting security cooperation through information sharing as part of the so-called Negev Forum, a gathering born out of recent normalisation deals between Arab states and Israel.
US State Department’s Derek Chollet described the two-day discussion that kicked off Monday in Abu Dhabi as “the largest meeting between Israel and its regional partners” since a 1991 Madrid peace conference.
“We discussed broad issues related to capacity building, related to information sharing, in an effort to augment the already very important work that is happening between our militaries in the region,” Chollet told a briefing.
He said the meeting also tackled food security and education, adding that participants “sought to develop clear, concrete and pragmatic steps that will bolster integration and… augment security”.
Bahrain, the UAE and Morocco normalised ties with Israel in 2020 as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords, while Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979.
In March last year, top diplomats from the four Arab countries met for the first time on Israeli soil in the Sde Boker kibbutz in the Negev desert, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also in attendance.
That meeting led to the current Negev Forum, which focuses on expanding cooperation across areas including security, energy, education and tourism.
The Abu Dhabi gathering follows a visit last week to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound by Israel’s new right-wing national security minister, firebrand Itamar Ben-Gvir.
The visit angered Palestinians and sparked international condemnation, including from the United States, while the United Nations Security Council discussed the move on Thursday at the request of the UAE and China.