On June 27 in Manama (Bahrain), several high-ranking American, Israeli, Moroccan, Emirati, Egyptian and Bahraini diplomats met within the framework of a preparatory meeting for the creation of the Negev Forum.
This meeting precedes President Joe Biden’s tour of the Middle East (July 13 to 16) and follows the first edition of this summit, which was held at the end of March in the Negev desert, in Israel. It was then the first time that Americans, Israelis and members of four Arab countries had met on the territory of the Jewish state since the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020.
While negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue resumed under the Biden administration, the Israelis took it to heart, during the June 27 meeting, to demonstrate that there was indeed a united front against Iran, made up of the Arab countries signatory to these agreements.
Morocco-Israel: conversations in the desert
This preparatory meeting also confirmed the desire of the six countries represented to transform this “coup de com” into a regular meeting, since they all say they are in favor of the creation of a regional cooperation organization, with a presidency rotating and an annual summit, the second edition of which should take place in 2023 in Morocco, more precisely in Dakhla, a city located in Western Sahara – a highly symbolic place for the kingdom. The head of Moroccan diplomacy, Nasser Bourita, was also delighted at the closing of the first Negev summit, declaring: “I hope that we will see each other again soon, in a different desert, but in the same state of mind. »
Since the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel in 2021, bilateral agreements and meetings between officials of the two countries have multiplied. Between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, no less than three Israeli ministers visited the kingdom: Benny Gantz (Defense), Ayelet Shaked (Interior) and Orna Barbivai (Economy).
The signing of several cooperation agreements, particularly in the security field, and the acquisition by Morocco (among others) of an Israeli air and anti-missile defense system have strengthened these new ties. An unprecedented visit by Nasser Bourita to Israel has been insistently announced “for this summer”. The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs is expected to inaugurate a Moroccan embassy in Israel, information confirmed to Young Africa by American diplomacy.
Still, these agreements are not well seen by Arab opinion and by some Moroccans, who believe that the Palestinian cause has been forgotten, even betrayed. Algeria understood all the advantage it could draw from these developments to promote its image as a champion of anti-colonial struggles.
Morocco-Israel: why Ayelet Shaked is eyeing Moroccan workers
Thus, on July 5, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the Algerian president, organized a meeting that the press of his country describes as “historic”, between on the one hand Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and, on the another, Ismaël Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau. Between the two Palestinians, whose relations are notoriously icy, the Algerian head of state poses as a reconciler.
Already in December 2021, Mahmoud Abbas, on an official visit to Algiers, left with a promise of donation from the Algerian authorities, in the amount of 100 million dollars. The whole challenge for Algiers therefore consists in recovering the “moral rent” represented by the Palestinian cause, after the twenty years of diplomatic immobility of the Bouteflika era.
However, according to several news sites, Morocco has not abandoned its ties with the Palestinian Authority. The concert with Cairo, Rabat would thus have pressed for this body to be integrated into the Negev Forum. An idea put forward in the wake of the preparatory meeting for the next United States / Israel + 4 summit (United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco).
To corroborate this information, the Moroccan site Le Desk quotes “Israeli officials”. In Israel, the site The Times Of Israel cites Washington, which, it says, would like the four Arab countries to be “joined by representatives of the Palestinian Authority and Jordan”.
Requested by Young Africa, a diplomat from one of the Arab States represented at the preparatory meeting was surprised and indicated that she had no information on this subject. More generally, she feels that the Palestinian Authority no longer represents a credible interlocutor in her eyes.
Is it therefore an operation of hasbara, this Hebrew word for the communication operations of the Israeli state? “It is a strategy which consists in making available to the press, national and/or international, “leaks” relayed in a more or less deliberate manner, which makes it possible to pass on specific elements of language or good to launch trial balloons, which are subsequently the subject of critical feedback. It’s a method as old as the world, ”explains David Rigoulet-Roze, doctor of political science and specialist in the Middle East at the French Institute for Strategic Analysis (IFAS). In this case, this “information” would reinforce the idea that the process of normalization between the Jewish state and the Arab countries is not an obstacle to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Morocco: Palestine, from national cause to lost cause?
“The Palestinian question remains significant, particularly for Morocco, whose king chairs the Al Quds Committee, created in 1975 and whose headquarters have been in Rabat since 1979. However, this issue does not, a priori, fit into the framework of this six-country format, which focuses primarily on strengthening regional cooperation. The vocation of this forum is not to deal with the Palestinian question, even if this subject can be evoked there in a collateral way”, adds the specialist.
The Palestinian Authority has never concealed its opposition to the Negev Forum. As for the Israeli government, it rejected, in early June, Joe Biden’s proposal to organize a “high-level summit” between Israel and the Palestinians, under the auspices of the United States, Jordan and of Egypt.