J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami issued the following statement:
“We welcome the establishment of the Negev Forum by the United States, Israel, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. The forum is a major advance in Israel’s integration into the region as a partner in key areas such as energy, education and co-existence, food and water security and health.
“The Forum presents a tremendous opportunity for peoples in the region to work toward a more peaceful and prosperous future. We therefore commend the parties for expressly affirming that the forum can ‘help create momentum in Israeli-Palestinian relations, towards a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and as part of efforts to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.’
“As pro-Israel advocates, we could not be more pleased to see the state of Israel normalizing relations with its Arab neighbors. At the same time, it remains our fundamental belief that Israel’s future as a democracy and as a secure national home for the Jewish people depends on reaching a negotiated resolution to its conflict with the Palestinian people, culminating in a viable Palestinian state. Those who hope Israel’s normalization with other countries in the region postpones or eliminates the need to address the core Israeli-Palestinian conflict or to address the rights and needs of Palestinians for freedom, justice and equality are mistaken, as ongoing cycles of tensions and violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territory so clearly demonstrate.
“Palestinian participation as a full and equal party in the Forum and related regional initiatives would maximize their potential to spur the progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace that the Forum’s members expressly referenced in their joint statement. The Forum should serve as a driver of, not an end-run around, a negotiated end to the conflict and occupation.”