On June 27, 2022, the steering committee of the Negev Forum, comprising senior diplomats from the U.S., Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt, held its first meeting in Bahrain's capital Manama. This forum was established at the Negev Summit, which was held in southern Israel in March 2022, with the participation of the foreign ministers of Israel, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, the UAE and the U.S.
The meeting's closing statement notes the member states agreed to increase the cooperation between them, to hold annual meetings at the level of foreign ministers, and to form working groups in the spheres of clean energy, education and coexistence, food and water security, health, regional security and tourism. The participants stressed their commitment to a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "as part of efforts to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace." They also noted that the working committees were meant to promote the wellbeing of the peoples of the region, including through initiatives to strengthen the Palestinian economy and improve the Palestinians' quality of life.
At a press conference following the steering committee's meeting, 'Abdallah bin Ahmad Aal Khalifa, an undersecretary at Bahrain's ministry of foreign affairs, said that the goal of the Negev Forum is to build a regional framework for expanding the cooperation and coordination among the member states. Adding that the forum is open to the participation of additional regional countries, he stressed that it is not a military forum but is intended to promote cooperation between Bahrain, Israel, Morocco, the UAE and the U.S. in order to develop the region. "The six [member] states are jointly committed to taking advantage of the numerous opportunities for cooperation between Israel and its neighbors," he said, "so as to actualize common interests and promote a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will [enable] attaining a comprehensive peace" and enhancing the quality of life and the wellbeing of the Palestinians.
Against the backdrop of the steering committee's meeting, Bahraini media figure 'Ahdia Ahmed Al-Sayed, formerly the chair of the Bahraini Journalists Association, wrote an article in the Emirati daily Al-Ittihad in which she welcomed the holding of the steering committee's meeting in Bahrain. Al-Sayed, known for supporting peace with Israel, stated that, unlike those who exploit the Palestinian issue, the Negev Forum establishes ties between the Arab countries, Israel and the U.S., aspires to improve the life of the Palestinians and promotes peace between the Palestinians and Israel. Al-Sayed called on more countries to join the forum, so it can constitute the kernel of a strong regional alliance on all levels.
Senior diplomats participate in the Negev Summit's steering committee's meeting in Bahrain (Source: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, June 28, 2022)
The following are translated excerpts from Al-Sayed's article:
"Last Monday [June 27, 2022], there was an important meeting of the steering committee of the Negev Forum, which had convened last March [in Israel] and was attended by the U.S., the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and Israel. The meeting's closing statement, which announced the establishment of six working groups in a variety of spheres – economy, society, education, health and others – stresses that the Negev Forum is here to stay and that the issues addressed by these [working] groups are relevant to the peoples and their direct needs. [These groups] will act to promote development, security and stability so as to attain prosperity and a better future for the coming generations. We are currently laying the foundations for this. We began with peace agreements that increase the stability of the Middle East and ensure the existence of viable states that live in dignity. The groups have a clearly-defined schedule and topics, and their solutions and decisions will surely be more serious and beneficial [than what we had in the past].
"Another aspect that caught my attention was the statement of Bahraini Foreign Undersecretary 'Abdallah bin Ahmad Aal Khalifa, who said that the forum is open to all countries and that it is not a military [forum]. He underscored this phrase ['not military'] a thousand times, since the Middle East is tired of conflicts and aspires to a better life, a life of dignity and prosperity. Another issue stressed at [the undersecretary's] press conference is the urgent need to push a solution to the Palestinian problem and 'improve the Palestinians' quality of life'…
"This is the place to emphasize that the countries which signed the peace agreements with Israel have never abandoned the Palestinian people and never will. This is the most powerful response to the mercenaries and traders in blood who attack these agreements and question their seriousness, and who have profited for years from exploiting Arab causes. Improving the Palestinians' quality of life means that they will live like all other peoples: in security and peace, [enjoying] development and wellbeing. [It means] that the Palestinian people will be the ones to benefit from the funds spent, instead of a handful of people who exploit [their] cause and pad their own bank accounts while the Palestinians contend with salary freezes or look for sources of livelihood.
"The solutions that have been placed on the table following the peace agreements are better and more beneficial for the Palestinians than the failed attempts of past years, which only escalated the conflict and brought them [nothing but] weariness, suffering and loss…
"I personally expect that more countries will join this forum, and that it will form the kernel of a very strong alliance on all levels that will lead to a better future and to peace and prosperity…"