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Local authorities cancel Iftar meal amid row over UAE ambassador’s participation

Arab locals tell Federation of Local Authorities chair Haim Bibas they want to prevent ‘politicization’ of break-fast event

Illustrative: Jews and Arabs sharing an Iftar (break-fast) meal together during the month of Ramadan, in the town of Tayibe, June 9, 2016. (Dov Lieber/Times of Israel)
Illustrative: Jews and Arabs sharing an Iftar (break-fast) meal together during the month of Ramadan, in the town of Tayibe, June 9, 2016. (Dov Lieber/Times of Israel)

The Israeli Federation of Local Authorities canceled Sunday’s traditional iftar evening meal, marking the breaking of the day’s Ramadan fast, following the controversial invitation of the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Israel to the event.

The planned participation of Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khajah in the Iftar event caused outrage among leaders of some of the Arab locals, telling the head of the union, Haim Bibas, they would boycott the event, the Walla news site reported.

Following the cancellation of Al Khajah’s participation by Bibas, the local leaders still said they would boycott the planned event in the Ramada Nazareth Hotel on Sunday.

The UAE’s first ambassador to Israel, Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah in Jerusalem on March 1, 2021. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

The union’s committee said the boycott of Al Khajah’s participation, is to prevent the “implementation of an agenda or political objectives” in the event.

“With all due respect, why exactly has he been invited and not others?” the leader of one of the local authorities told Walla.

“The event that the Federation of Local Authorities holds every year is welcomed, but everyone understands the sensitivities, and we do not agree with them conducting political moves at our expense, certainly not amid the holy holiday meal,” the unnamed leader said.

Haim Bibas, mayor of Modiin and Chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Muslims traditionally refrain from eating and drinking during the day during Ramadan, only breaking their fasts after sundown.

“In general, they should not plan events for us without consulting us first,” he added.

Israel and the UAE normalized ties last September with the signing of the so-called Abraham Accords at the White House in Washington, in a deal brokered by then-US president Donald Trump’s administration. Bahrain also joined the accords, establishing ties with Israel.

In February, Al Khajah was sworn in by UAE Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

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