December 11, 2018 — New York
An AJC leadership delegation concluded eight days of consultations with senior government officials, policy analysts, business executives, U.S. diplomats, journalists and other interlocutors in three Arabian Gulf states. The group’s talks continued a quarter-century-plus AJC tradition of information-gathering and advocacy across the Middle East.
The content of discussions led by AJC President John Shapiro and the organization’s Associate Executive Director for Policy, Jason Isaacson, with leaders of the Sultanate of Oman, the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates was off the record – but the presence of the 13-member delegation and the fact of its high-level meetings with governments that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel were publicized.
The AJC Gulf tour, scheduled a month after the U.S. midterm elections and the imposition of tough new U.S. economic sanctions on Iran, came on the heels of a surprise late-October visit to Oman by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the participation of two Israeli ministers in international events in the UAE, and the announcement of an invitation to another Israeli minister to a “start-up nations” conference next year in Bahrain.
In Dubai, the group celebrated Shabbat and the sixth night of Hanukkah with the increasingly visible expatriate Jewish community of the UAE – along with a delegation of rabbis, including AJC’s Jerusalem-based International Interreligious Affairs Director David Rosen, who were in the UAE for a just-concluded conference on peace promotion in Muslim societies.
“In a region facing ongoing strategic threats and mounting political uncertainties, it is more critical than ever for AJC, an organization committed to peace, stability, and the protection of human rights, to engage and seek areas of cooperation with America’s Gulf partners,” said Isaacson. “Though obstacles remain, AJC comes away from its latest round of consultations in the Gulf encouraged by new signs of openness to pursuing common objectives with Israel – and appreciative of initiatives both to promote dialogue and mutual respect among religions and to recognize Jews’ historic place in the Middle East.”
High on the delegation’s agenda in its meetings with the three governments were the urgency of maintaining close U.S. diplomatic, strategic and economic links with Gulf states, efforts to counter Tehran’s destabilizing activities from the Levant to North Africa and on the Arabian Peninsula – as well as the criminal and terrorist acts of its proxy, Hezbollah; effective strategies to thwart Islamist recruitment and diminish extremists’ popular appeal; and the promotion of Arab-Israeli and Muslim-Jewish understanding and cooperation.
Leaders with whom AJC met included, in Oman, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs; in Bahrain, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, and Interior Minister Lt. Gen. Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa; and in the UAE, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Foreign Minister.
As it does continuously with leaders in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa, AJC engages in ongoing dialogue with key figures in Middle Eastern and North African states on matters of regional security and stability, and ways to advance regional and global peace, defeat extremist and other threats, and affirm U.S. leadership to advance American and allied interests and values.