Arab diplomats ditch plans for anniversary of Israel normalization
Lapid's intent to use the Gaza offensive as leverage for his elections campaign contributed implicitly to the Arab states' decision not to attend the peace conference in September
By News Desk - August 15 2022

(Photo credit: Jack Guez / AFP via Getty Images)

The Israeli government has cancelled the ceremony to commemorate the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords, after Arab diplomats voiced their concern about the timing ahead of the Israeli elections.

The Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation Issawi Frej expressed his understanding regarding the decision taken by the UAE and other signatory parties to not attend the conference on 12 September.

The Arab diplomatic delegations, who were expected to be hosted in Israel, chose to distance themselves from the upcoming Knesset elections.

Parliamentary elections will be held on 1 November to elect the members of the twenty-fifth Knesset, after lawmakers voted unilaterally to dissolve it on 30 June.

In a interview reported by Haaretz on 13 August, Frej spoke of the Arabs’ fear that their participation in such a conference would be interpreted as interference in the electoral battle in favor of Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s coalition.

Lapid will face off against the opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who aims to regain control of the government and end the cooperation with Knesset members (MK) from the Arab community.

As a result of the decision taken by the Arab states, the conference was canceled to avoid the “embarrassment” of hosting only Israeli officials.

London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported that the conference included the signature of several economic and social cooperation agreements between Israel and the Arab states.

The conference was expected to lay the foundation for a plan to open a commercial land route that connects Israel to the Gulf states through Jordan’s Sheikh Hussein Bridge.

Additionally, the diplomats intended to initiate talks on how to tackle the pressing energy and food crises in light of the repercussions of the Russian military operation in Ukraine.

“We planned to deepen and expand initiatives in the fields of education and culture, with the aim of strengthening the trends that support peace, weakening extremist religious attitudes, and educating the values ​​of tolerance,” said Frej.

However, hosting this conference would not be Lapid’s only attempt to leverage something in his favor ahead of November.

On 9 August, the Likud party accused Lapid of engaging in illegal electioneering by publishing pictures of himself alongside Israeli army soldiers during the offensive operation in Gaza.

The Knesset elections law restricts utilizing uniformed soldiers in campaign ads and disapproves of hosting election-related events inside the army’s facilities.

Lapid achieved the strongest week of his campaign during the aggression on Gaza, but this had minimal impact on Netanyahu’s bloc which only dropped by 0.3 seats to 61.2.

The current polls indicate that the Likud is projected to regain the majority in the parliament, according to the Times of Israel.

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