THE WEEK AHEAD: New Israeli-led coalition forming against Iranian aggression?
Here are the stories we are watching...
Iran tops the agenda of “historic summit” with Israel, U.S., UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt
U.S. Secretary of State Blinken to visit Israel, the West Bank, Morocco and Algeria
Abraham Accords Festival kicks off in Dubai
Israeli defense minister travels to India in a contested trip
ISRAEL HOSTS HISTORIC NEGEV SUMMIT THIS WEEK
Israel is hosting a “historic” high-level diplomatic summit today and tomorrow with foreign ministers from the United States and four Arab nations. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who arrived in Israel on Saturday, will be joined by the UAE’s Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Bahrain’s Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Morocco’s Nasser Bourita and Egypt's Sameh Shoukry.
The UAE, Bahrain and Morocco normalized ties with Israel under the framework of the Abraham Accords in 2020. Israel is looking to strengthen the accords by scheduling regular diplomatic meetings with member countries, as well as to expand the agreements to include additional countries.
We will be watching whether Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s first public criticism of a Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia is an overture to the Kingdom for joining the Accords.
BLINKEN VISITS MIDDLE EAST
Blinken will continue his regional visit that includes stops in four Middle Eastern countries. The Secretary’s visit takes place as Israel and the Palestinian Authority are bracing for a potentially contentious month of April, during which Passover, Ramadan and Easter coincide. Blinken will also visit Morocco and Algeria. His consultations with regional partners will focus on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Iran’s destabilizing activities, normalization agreements with Israel and Israeli-Palestinian relations among other topics.
ABRAHAM ACCORDS FESTIVAL
The United Arab Emirates will host the Abraham Accords Festival and Games on Tuesday at the Expo 2020 Dubai. The day-long event will feature a soccer game between a regional team that consists of Israeli, Emirati, Bahraini and Moroccan players, who will face a squad made up of international soccer stars. Maor Buzaglo, Tal Ben Haim and Salim Tuama will represent Israel on the field. The “World Classics Team” will include Brazilian legends Kaká and Julio Cesar, Spain’s Carles Puyol and others.
The festival is meant to be the first in a series hosted by Morocco, Bahrain and Israel over the coming months, with the goal of deepening cultural cooperation and people-to-people ties between Abraham Accords countries.
GANTZ TRAVELS TO INDIA – BEFORE BENNETT
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz will embark on trip to India on Tuesday – a visit that stirred a diplomatic row with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, according to Hebrew media outlets. The prime minister’s office was reportedly surprised to learn that Gantz would be flying to India just days prior to Bennett’s state visit on April 2. The two Israeli leaders are going to India to mark 30 years of bilateral ties. Gantz’s visit will include discussions with India’s minister of defense, with the aim of expanding and deepening cooperation between the establishments.
India is among a list of key global powerhouses with whom Israel is expected to sign free trade agreements soon. If materialized, the trade deals could have a dramatic impact on Israel’s economy and its high cost of living. This would mean significant decreases in tariffs on food products and other goods.
The cost of gas is expected to rise next week in the Jewish state, nearing an expected price of $8.76 dollars per gallon (7.5 shekels per liter). Social activists are planning a protest on Sunday. “If we don’t stop it now, we will reach a price of over 10 shekels per liter or even worse,” an activist group wrote on social media. Since the beginning of the year, Israel saw a 16.7% increase in gas prices.
ISRAEL CANNABIS USERS DECRIMINALIZED
Israel will introduce new measures towards the legalization of recreational cannabis this week. Starting Thursday, Israelis previously convicted of possession or personal use of the substance will be able to have their records cleared. Israelis will legally be able to carry under 15 grams of cannabis for personal use, however, will be fined 500 shekels ($155). Cannabis users in a public space will be fined 1,000 shekels ($310). Many Israelis support this legislation as a step in the right direction, but not sufficient.
This week we are also keeping an eye on these developing stories:
…Will a surge in COVID cases jeopardize the tourism industry and lead to another Israeli border closure?
…Will the U.S. and Iran reach a new nuclear deal and will the U.S. re-designate the IRGC?
…Will Jerusalem host a potential meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin?
…With the invasion of Ukraine, is a surge in aliyah (immigration to Israel) on the horizon? We are tracking this story from several angles.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.