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July 21, 2022 12:46 pm
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Israel Advances Interfaith Forum With UAE, US to Combat Religious Extremism  

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

The national flags of Israel and the United Arab Emirates flutter along a highway, in Netanya, Israel, Aug. 17, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Nir Elias.

Israeli officials convened on Tuesday as part of a trilateral initiative with the US and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to counter religious extremism and promote interfaith coexistence in the Middle East.

Officials from the three countries met in Washington in October, 2021, to announce the joint working group, about a year after the US-led Abraham Accords formally normalized relations between the UAE and Israel.

“I am happy to lead a historic and important initiative to promote coexistence and fight against religious hatred,” said Israel Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern. “The Abraham Accords have shattered long-held perceptions, and the trilateral group will now continue to promote the important dialogue between the peoples.”

The Israeli team for the coexistence working group is led by Shuli Davidovich, Director of the Diaspora and Religions Division at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and Yaron Tzvick, Director of the Policy Division at the Intelligence Ministry.

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Tzvick and Tania Berg-Rafaeli, Director of the Religions Department at the foreign ministry, presented plans for increasing interfaith tolerance, promoting freedom of worship, and devising new ideas for cooperation between the countries on the basis of the Accords.

The team is expected to focus on education and youth programming, among other areas.

“This unique working group between Israel, the UAE, and the US represents another significant milestone in expanding the circle of peace and bringing the religions and peoples of the region closer together,” stated Davidovich.

Inaugurated in March, in Dubai, the group held its first virtual meeting with representatives of the UAE and the US last month. A division of labor was  established, with the US heading a subgroup for boosting religious tolerance; the UAE group tasked with promoting freedom of religious practice; and Israel taking the lead on innovation for coexistence and cooperation, including young leadership.

As part of the Abraham Accords, Israel normalized diplomatic ties in 2020 with other Arab countries including Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan. The trilateral group said back in March that it expects other Abraham Accords signatories to join the tolerance initiative.

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