Israel hosts iftar meal for diplomats from Muslim countries, local religious leaders

Against the backdrop of recent signs of frustration from Israel’s Arab partners, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted an iftar dinner on Sunday evening for diplomats from Muslim countries serving in Israel and local Muslim leaders.

The ambassadors of Turkey and Egypt joined the Minister of Foreign Affairs Eli Cohen and the Director General Ronen Levy to end the day’s Ramadan fasting, as did Abderrahim Beyyoudh, the head of Morocco’s relations office in Israel.

Notably, ambassadors from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) did not attend, and were replaced by lower level diplomats. The Jordanian delegate Ghassan Majali also stayed away from the event.

Foreign Ministry officials insisted that all ambassadors who were free to attend did so on Sunday, and that any absences were due to travel or scheduling conflicts. The ministry said representatives from the embassies of Albania, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Tanzania, Chad and Azerbaijan were also present on Sunday, with the latter two participating for the first time in an iftar meal at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem.

The UAE, Bahrain and Morocco normalized ties with Israel as part of the 2020 Abraham Accords. There have been signs from the early days of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 3-month government – including far-right and ultra-Orthodox partners of his Likud party of right-wing is in charge – that the countries are putting the brakes on the agreements, apparently avoiding high-profile meetings. No senior Israeli official has been invited on state visits in the three countries, and they have not sent senior representatives to Israel.

In addition, the second Israeli-Arab Negev summit, originally planned for Morocco last month, was delayed until after Ramadan. The inaugural Negev summit in Sde Boker took place in March 2022, initiated and hosted by the then foreign minister, Yair Lapid.

Diplomats from Muslim countries serving in Israel and local Muslim leaders attend an iftar meal hosted by Israel’s Foreign Ministry April 2, 2023. (Sivan Shachor/GPO)

In a speech he gave on Sunday at an iftar meal, Cohen said “The signing of the Abraham Accords was the greatest achievement of Israel in recent years”, which he said proved “that we can act together for good with our people and improving the lives of millions. in the region.”

“The Abraham Accords brought about a change in the relationship with the governments and no less, with the people in the Middle East,” Cohen said, adding that trade and tourism with the signatories of the US-brokered agreements was increasing, which allowed “that enough to enjoy the fruits of historic peace.”

Netanyahu demonstrated his determination and ability to promote the Abraham Accords – something the Naftali Bennett-Lapid government was unable to do – by visiting the UAE early in his term. A Middle Eastern diplomat told The Times of Israel in February that those plans are on hold until Abu Dhabi sees what unfolds during Ramadan, when tensions can flare.

However, no significant progress has been made in expanding the agreements and despite Netanyahu repeatedly saying he hopes to reach a major normalization deal with Saudi Arabia, the influential kingdom has move further away, instead renewing diplomatic ties with Israel’s arch-enemy Iran and moving to reform. relations with Syria.

The month-long fasting holiday began on March 23.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Arab partners have publicly criticized the comments and actions of ministers in Netanyahu’s government, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich who said in a speech in Paris last month that the Palestinian people are an “invention”, speaking in front of a map that showed the “Mainland of Israel,” including Jordan. He has also previously called for the “destruction” of the West Bank town of Huwara, following a terror attack there in which two Israeli brothers were killed. The far-right Religious Antiquity lawmaker has apologized for Huwara’s remarks.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich speaks in Paris on 19 March 2023. (Ynet Screen; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Smotrich’s remarks in particular inflamed the already strained relationship with Jordan. The Hashemite kingdom summoned the Israeli envoy in protest, with Amman engaging in reckless provocation and a violation of international norms.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry sought to downplay the backlash, tweeting that “Israel is committed to the 1994 peace agreement with Jordan” and that “the position of the State of Israel, which recognizes the Hashemite territorial integrity, has not changed.” Kingdom,” in Hebrew and English.

National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi later called Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi to make a similar declaration regarding Israel’s commitment to its treaty with Jordan.

On Sunday, Jordan’s King Abdullah said that “Muslims have a duty to prevent the rise of Israel” in Jerusalem.

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