First-Ever Summit on Israeli Soil Dismissed as A “Summit of Shame”

By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS (IDN) — When the United States joined hands with Israel, Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to hold “the first ever multilateral Arab-Israeli summit on Israeli soil”, there was one potential participant described as MIA—the Palestinians, missing in action.

One of the Palestinian demonstrators outside the hotel, where the summit took place on March 28, held a sign which read: “Haven’t you forgotten someone?”

The marquee event, held in Sde Boker, located in the center of the Negev Desert in southern Israel, “showcased Israel’s growing legitimacy among Middle Eastern leaders who for decades had shunned the Jewish state”, according to a report in the New York Times March 29.

Is this summit the beginning of the betrayal of the Palestinian cause—a struggle for a homeland that spans over 75 years? Or is it a step in the right direction towards a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Dr Ramzy Baroud, a Palestinian author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle, told IDN the US-Israel-Arab summit is the direct outcome of the massive geopolitical changes in the Middle East and the world at large.

Though this conference, tellingly dubbed ‘The Summit of Shame’ by Palestinians, is an outright betrayal of the Palestinian struggle, it is hardly surprising, he said, pointing out that these countries have already betrayed Palestine and repeatedly so, for years.

The culmination of that betrayal was the Abraham Accords in 2020 not the Naqab summit, he noted.

“The summit was intended as a show of strength and unity of US allies in the Middle East, as another Iran nuclear accord is becoming imminent,” he declared.

According to the Times, the summit hardly had any support from the Arab street with polls indicating that many people in the Arab world do not support the normalization of relations with Israel.

The summit was also an occasion for the US to stand side-by-side with the UAE which abstained on a crucial UN Security Council resolution last month condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The US, one of the major arms suppliers to the UAE, and with a strong political relationship with the Emiratis, felt “betrayed” by the vote.

Dr Baroud said that historically, weak Arab Gulf countries have sought protection from stronger parties, from Saddam Hussein during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, from the US and its allies following the Iraq invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and now again from Iran. 

“The problem is, the US is no longer that trusted protector,” he said.

Following Washington’s retreat from the Middle East, starting in 2012, it has become clear that future US foreign policy strategies are no longer predicated on the centrality of the Middle East region. Even the tumultuous so-called Arab Spring hasn’t changed that, he added.

“And, after years of haggling and desperate attempts at turning back time, Washington is once more forced to accept the seemingly irreversible geopolitical changes in the region,” he noted.

A future US-Iran agreement, Dr Baroud said, is likely to end the sanctions on Tehran and the latter is likely to grow in its regional importance as a powerful country with unmistakable geopolitical interests from Syria to Palestine, to Yemen.

“This is clearly the context of the Arab normalization with Israel, the need for a new type of alliance to reassure them that the ascendency of Iran will not happen at their expense. But this is hardly a show of force, since Israel’s military capabilities have proven ineffective in Palestine and in Lebanon, and Israel is hardly an influential party in the ongoing conflict in Syria.”

Moreover, he said, Iran has made it clear that it will not tolerate any Israeli aggression in the Gulf, in Northern Iraq or in Syria, resorting to tit-for-tat type of action. Israel seems to be getting that message.

So, it is really hard to imagine a scenario in which Israel, that is barely able to contain Palestinian and Arab resistance, is actually able to protect entire Arab Gulf countries, especially when Iran and its allies have grown much stronger than before.

“Therefore, I believe that the Naqab summit was a reflection of the political desperation of US allies in the region.”

While Palestinians do consider this an act of betrayal, it is hardly shocking for them, for it’s a continuation of similar betrayals which have been underway for years, declared Dr Baroud.

Meanwhile, on March 22, Tor Wennesland, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process briefed the Security Council by videoconference on the continued settlement activity by Israeli authorities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

As part of his periodic report, as requested by Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), he said that settlement expansion “continues to fuel violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, further entrenching the occupation, undermining the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, independent statehood, and eroding the possibility of establishing a contiguous and viable Palestinian State”.

Wennesland said he is deeply troubled by the continued loss of life and serious injuries, including children, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the overall deterioration of the security situation, including an apparent increase in shooting attacks during the reporting period.

The Special Coordinator also noted the forthcoming Ramadan, Pesach and Easter observances should be a time of peaceful reflection, prayer and celebration for all religions. Provocations must be avoided. Leaders on all sides have a critical role to play to ensure there are no provocations, he noted. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 April 2022]

Photo: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined a meeting in the Naqab region, along with foreign ministers from Israel, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and the UAE. (Source: via Blinken Twitter page)

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