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Nahum Barnea
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
David and Paula Ben-Gurion's grave

Israel's integration to 'new Mideast' comes with a price

Analysis: The Negev Summit will help the Jewish state in becoming a major player in the region, as the Iranian threat hovers over it and other Sunni states, but as we have seen - the Palestinians intend to protest this move in a very violent way

Nahum Barnea |
Published: 04.01.22, 23:40
It was genius move on the part of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to host the Negev Summit at Sde Boker was a great idea, not least because it is a burial place of David Ben-Gurion and his wife Paula.
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  • Had he offered to hold the historic regional event in Jerusalem, the Arab foreign ministers would not have come. Had he offered to host it in Tel Aviv or Eilat, it would have drawn criticism towards him from right-wing members of the public and lawmakers.
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    הקברים של דוד ופולה בן גוריון
    הקברים של דוד ופולה בן גוריון
    David and Paula Ben-Gurion's grave
    (Photo: Michal Fishler)
    It is too early to tell if the summit was in fact historic. But, it was definitely a major step in Israel's struggle for the Americans to stop easing sanctions on Iran, including the rumored removal of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from its notorious terror list.
    According to sources, the decision on this matter has been postponed than to the Israeli and Saudi Arabia pressure as well as criticism from some members of the U.S. Congress.
    In addition, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken have made something else clear to Israeli officials during his appearance at the summit: The American government now fully trusts Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. He apparently is willing to withstand Israel's criticism about U.S. not implementing some of the sanctions on Iran as long as Bennett continues his mediation efforts.
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    US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, accompanied by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, right, speaks at bilateral meeting at the State Department in Washington, October 13
    US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, accompanied by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, right, speaks at bilateral meeting at the State Department in Washington, October 13
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, accompanied by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, right, speaks at bilateral meeting at the State Department in Washington, October 13
    (Photo: AP)
    As far as the summit goes, it is not as groundbreaking as Israeli politicians want us to believe. Meetings between Israel and some Sunni countries happened in the past and included officials ranked much higher than foreign ministers.
    In March 1996, in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh the "Summit of Peacemakers" was held, but its real purpose was to assist Shimon Peres in the upcoming elections - which he didn't win.
    In June 2003, the Aqaba Summit was held to help Ariel Sharon thwart the Second Intifada. In November 2007, the Annapolis Conference was convened to give a back-to-back draft of negotiations between former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
    At the current Negev Summit, Israel is no longer a guest or an observer. It is now a major player, and its acceptance in the regional club is no longer depends on the approval of Americans. On the contrary, the Americans are Israel’s guests now.
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    דגלי המדינות בשדה בוקר
    דגלי המדינות בשדה בוקר
    The Negev Summit
    (Photo: AFP)
    Another positive outcome of this summit is the decision of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to send his foreign minister to attend it. Egypt seeks to join the the Abraham Accords for economic reasons since it is in need of investments from the Emirates and Israel, but also for security and political reasons.
    It is true that the peace treaty with Egypt has existed for 43 years, but the normalization agreement with the Gulf States has breathed a new life into it.
    These developments were a result of much less positive ones. First of all, the impending revival of the nuclear agreement with Iran, and second, American political withdrawal from the Middle East. The concern of Iran becoming a nuclear threshold, as while free of international sanctions and encouraging regional terrorism, is what has brought the Sunni states closer to Israel.
    While Israel can’t provide these countries the same protections as the U.S., it is still the most powerful country in the region, it has links to the U.S. Congress, and most importantly, Israel has the military ability to strike Iran at any point.
    Saudi Arabia is also expected to join this alliance in the future. That is why the Israeli government rushed to condemn the recent attack on Saudi targets, carried out by the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
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    The latest deadly terror attacks in Hadera and Be'er Sheva
    The latest deadly terror attacks in Hadera and Be'er Sheva
    The latest deadly terror attacks in Hadera and Be'er Sheva
    Someone who is unlikely to join the summit next year are the Palestinians. As far as Bennett and Lapid are concerned, that's good news. But, as we sadly learned over the past week, the Palestinians have their own way, usually a violent one, of forcing themselves into every discourse.
    And while they were not around the political table at the summit, they were in Hadera, Be'er Sheva, and Bnei Brak.
    So, not only the beautiful landscape of Sde Boker is part of the new Middle East, but terrorism as well.
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