A soccer game and gourmet dinner are set to mark the start on Tuesday of official cultural cooperation between the Abraham Accords countries.
The United Arab Emirates will host top soccer players and chefs from Israel, Morocco and Bahrain for the “Abraham Accords Festival and Games” at Dubai Expo2020 on March 29.
The goal of the festival is to encourage people-to-people ties and strengthen the relations established between Israel and three Arab states – the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco – in late 2020, in what is called the Abraham Accords.
The event will begin with an exhibition soccer match, featuring Salaheddine Bassir, Noureddine Naybet and Mustapha Hadji of Morocco; Bakheet Saad, Basheer Saeed and Humaid Fakher of the UAE; Maor Buzaglo, Tal Ben Haim and Salim Tuama from Israel; and Talal Yousif Mohamed, Faouzi Mubarak Aaish and Mahmood Abdul Rahman Mohamed from Bahrain.
The game will be followed by a dinner prepared by renowned chefs Avivit Priel from Israel, Mohammed Baya of Morocco, Khaled Al Saadi of the UAE, and Bahraini chefs Yusuf Zainal and Salah Zainal.
In addition, the culture ministers of the four countries will sign a Culture and Sport For Peace Joint Declaration, enabling future collaborations.
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides has played a central role in planning the Abraham Accords Festival and Games in recent months. He will be joined at the event by Israeli Culture Minister Chili Tropper; Bahraini Sports and Youth Minister Ayman Tawfiq Muayyad; and Moroccan Culture, Youth and Communications Minister Mohamed Bensaid.
Also in attendance will be UAE Culture and Youth Minister Noura al-Kaabi, UAE Minister of State for Youth Shamma bint Suhail al-Mazrui, UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohammed Al-Khaja, and Bahraini Ambassador Khaled al-Jalahama.
Nides said this week that helping promote the Abraham Accords is one of the things to which he most looked forward to when becoming ambassador to Israel.
“It’s been an obsession with me to try to grow the importance of the Abraham Accords, vis-à-vis not only economic ideas, but I’ve been fixated on the idea of cultural significance,” he said at a media briefing. “Personal cooperation drives peace and understanding.”
Nides expressed hope that the festival will be seen by other countries, and convince them of the benefits of normalizing relations with Israel.
“It shows what happens when there is cooperation: people understand there are more opportunities to work together,” he Nides. “It’s not just soccer and food, it’s economics, energy, security. The US is trying to play the role of the bridesmaid.
“I give the Trump administration an enormous amount of credit. It’s our job to continue pushing the Abraham Accords forward.”
Future cooperation, said the ambassador, could include social media influencers and pop stars.
Al-Khaja said the event is “part of a broader effort, whereby ongoing sports, food and cultural events serve as cement to form strong people-to-people ties between the signers of the Abraham Accords. Strong peace is based on strong relationships between the citizens of the Abraham Accords countries. We want to see the people get together to play, eat, form partnerships, friendships and have fun together.”
As for recent tensions between Abu Dhabi and Washington, over the former feeling the US has been insufficiently supportive in the UAE’s struggle with Iran and its proxies, Nides said they have not gotten in the way of planning the Abraham Accords festival, which has been in the works since January.
“The Emiratis have been phenomenal hosts,” he said.