ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 150

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Negev Forum steering committee to meet in UAE to prepare next summit

Over 20 senior Israeli officials set to join delegation to Abu Dhabi led by Foreign Ministry Director Alon Ushpiz

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

(L) Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Lempert, (C) Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and (R) Bahrain’s Undersecretary for International Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Khalifa at the Negev Summit follow-up in Bahrain, June 27, 2022 (Foreign Ministry)
(L) Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Lempert, (C) Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and (R) Bahrain’s Undersecretary for International Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Khalifa at the Negev Summit follow-up in Bahrain, June 27, 2022 (Foreign Ministry)

The steering committee of the Negev Forum is set to meet in Abu Dhabi next week, with Israel’s delegation headed by Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz, a Foreign Ministry official said Friday.

The meeting, which will last from Sunday through Tuesday, is the steering committee’s third since the inaugural Negev Summit last March. The committee previously met in Bahrain in July, and on Zoom in October.

The focus will be on preparing for the second Negev Summit, scheduled for the spring in Morocco. No final date has been set for the meeting.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen announced the Morocco meeting in his inaugural speech this week.

The six Negev Forum working groups will also meet in the UAE — regional security, education and tolerance, water and food security, tourism and energy.

Israel leads the education and tolerance group, and co-chairs the water and food security team with Morocco.

Over 20 senior officials from the agriculture, defense, health, tourism, intelligence, energy, economy and education ministries will be flying with Ushpiz, as will representatives from the Water Authority and National Security Council.

Last year’s inaugural meeting — with Israel’s now-outgoing, more moderate government — brought to the Israeli desert the foreign minister of Egypt, the first Arab state to make peace with Israel, and his counterparts from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, which normalized relations in 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords.

The goal of the upcoming working groups is to identify joint initiatives that all countries can participate in, according to a Foreign Ministry official.

The official added that the condemnations this week over National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount had no impact on the Negev Forum process.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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