Jordan misses opening of U.S.-backed Negev Forum, despite efforts to get both Amman and Ramallah to send representatives to the Abu Dhabi gathering.
By: WIN Staff – worldisraelnews.com
The Negev Forum’s steering committee opened its two-day meeting in Abu Dhabi Monday morning, despite the refusal of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to take part.
Representatives from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Israel, and the U.S. gathered for the Negev Forum steering committee’s third meeting since its establishment last June.
Amman declined to take part in the gathering, refusing entreaties from the Biden administration.
Jordan, the only Arab state with fully normalized relations with Israel that did not participate in the meeting Monday, has insisted that it will not take part in the Negev Forum unless the PA joins.
Thus far, Ramallah has ruled out involvement in the Forum, which PA leaders claim is part of a larger effort to diminish the need for a final status agreement with Israel, marginalizing the Palestinian position.
Speaking with Times of Israel, a senior State Department official lamented Jordan’s refusal to take part in the meeting. “There’s an empty chair at the table,” he said.
Last fall, Israeli officials expressed optimism that Jordan could be brought into the fold.
Established during the Negev Summit at Sde Boker in southern Israel last March, the Negev Forum is an extension of the Abraham Accords.
The Forum, the State Department official said, is a ““natural next step forward in terms of trying to harness some of these normalization agreements and to advance initiatives and projects that enhance regional integration that will benefit everybody, including the Palestinians.”
Six working groups have been established as part of the forum, including committees for health, regional security, education and tolerance, water and food security, tourism, and energy.
The official suggested that the future of the Forum could depend on how Israel’s Arab allies perceive the new right-wing government. “Our Arab partners will be watching closely.”
Despite the PA’s refusal to join the Forum, the State Department official said the Biden administration is ensuring that Ramallah is kept abreast of developments in Abu Dhabi.
JNS reported that United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is scheduled to visit Israel toward the end of January, Israeli media reported on Monday.
The goal of the visit is to “coordinate expectations” between the Biden and Netanyahu administrations, as well as to prepare the ground for a visit by Netanyahu to the United States, which is likely to take place this year, according to the reports.
The Biden administration has formulated a working plan to deal with the new Israeli government, based on the principle that Netanyahu will be held fully accountable by Washington for his government’s actions, according to Politico. The U.S. has expressed displeasure with some of the new governments’ partners, particularly Otzma Yehudit party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Last week, Blinken called newly appointed Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen to congratulate him on his inauguration, telling him during the call that the nuclear deal with Iran is dead, according to Israel Hayom.
Blinken also reportedly said that the U.S. plans to get European countries on board with the goal of tightening economic sanctions on Iran.
Cohen welcomed the positions expressed by Blinken and repeated Israel’s own position regarding the need to increase pressure on Iran and avoid a return to the nuclear agreement. (WorldIsraelNews.com & JNS.org)