Persian Gulf states are now more willing to speak openly about their desire to have ties with Israel, a topic that was previously only hinted at behind closed doors. “UAE ministers are looking forward to establishing ties with Israel,” US Rabbi Marc Schneier told The Jerusalem Post on a phone call from Abu Dhabi. “It was not a question of if, but a question of when,” he said.
Schneier meet with Arab and Evangelical Christian leaders during an inter-religious gathering in the Persian Gulf. The UAE, like other Gulf states Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, are pursuing alliances with Israel and the Trump Administration. After feeling betrayed by the 2015 nuclear deal with adversarial Iran brokered by former US President Barack Obama, these Sunni-majority nations are looking for a security buffer to counter Shiite-majority Tehran's aggressive tactics in the region.
“We also need to sensitize and educate and expose both Gulf leaders and Muslim interfaith leaders to the fact that Israel is not a political dimension for the Jewish people; it's at the very core of our religion," Rabbi Schneier told The Associated Press during his visit. Rabbi Schneier has been building relationships with Arab countries for years. He previously reported that the first condolence call he received after the deadliest attack on Jews in US history (the Pittsburg synagogue shooting) came from Sheikh Nahyan of the UAE.
Schneier said that he used to hear people in the region say: "We have nothing against Jews. It's Israelis and Zionists that we have a problem with." But now, the rabbi says things have changed. "I no longer hear that rhetoric. It's no longer part of the conversation," he said.
Several prominent US Christian leaders were also in attendance at the UAE interfaith symposium. For many Evangelicals, support for Israel is also at the very core of their faith. This is not the first-time Christian leaders have traveled to the Gulf States in efforts to promote ties with Israel and the US. Earlier this year, a delegation of Evangelicals led by author Joel Rosenberg met with the Saudi Crown Prince in Riyadh. That meeting was actually initiated by Saudi Arabia's future ruler following his tour of major US cities, during which he broke old taboos by saying that the Israelis have a "right to their own land."
PHOTO: Illustration. Getting Jews and Muslims to be friends is rarely a simple exercise. (Michal Fattal/Flash90)