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Jewish Leaders Visit Arab Gulf States, Meet With Senior Officials on Strategic Cooperation

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A general view shows the area outside the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, March 23, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Christopher Pike.

JNS.org – American Jewish Committee (AJC) board members and leaders concluded a weeklong visit to the capitals of Arab countries that have normalized or are close to normalizing relations with Israel under the Abraham Accords, according to a news release from AJC.

The release stated that the delegation had meetings with government ministers, senior officials, policy analysts, civil society and business leaders in Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The group also met with senior US diplomats in all three countries, including with the commander of the Bahrain-based US Naval Forces Central Command. In Bahrain and the UAE, the group also met with top Israeli diplomats, and members of the Jewish communities in the cities of Muscat, Manama, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

According to the release, AJC has engaged with regional governments for 25 years, building up to the 2020 Abraham Accords.

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“Establishing a continuous presence in the Gulf, where we have been forging relationships of trust and common purpose for a generation, has been a dream long nurtured by AJC lay and staff leadership,” said Jason Isaacson, AJC’s chief policy and political affairs officer, who has led the organization’s regional outreach. “AJC Abu Dhabi, under the direction of the veteran US diplomat Ambassador Marc Sievers, will take our presence—and our message of mutual respect and partnership in confronting shared challenges—to a new level.”

Part of the group’s agenda was to affix a mezuzah on the entrance of the AJC Abu Dhabi office, the Sidney Lerner Center for Arab-Jewish Understanding, which is scheduled to open in March of 2022.

With the Jewish community, the group discussed a number of topics including regional security challenges, the potential for wider strategic cooperation, interfaith programming, and other aspirations including growing strategic, economic and political ties with the United States and Israel.

They visited the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Religious Affairs, and had a tour of the newly renovated synagogue in Manama conducted by Bahrain’s former Ambassador to the United States, Houda Nonoo, who is a member of the country’s Jewish community.

The delegation then participated in a panel discussion in the US pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai, speaking about interfaith understanding, and toured the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum and its Holocaust exhibit with museum founder Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoori and the visiting High Representative of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, former Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos.

Members of the delegation included Suzi Jaffe, Roberta Baruch, Andrew Marks, Michael Feldstein, Merle and David Horwitz, and Benjamin Rogers, director of AJC’s Middle East and North Africa initiatives.

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