September 2, 2020 — New York
American Jewish Committee (AJC), which for more than 25 years has advanced understanding and fostered cooperation between Arab states and the Jewish people, today announced its plans to open an office in the United Arab Emirates.
The move comes in the wake of the historic announcement Aug. 13 by President Donald Trump, His Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the UAE and Israel would establish full diplomatic relations.
"The establishment of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel realizes a vision that AJC has helped to pursue for decades," said David Harris, AJC CEO. "By moving forward on our plans to open an office in the Emirates, AJC hopes to expand on our decades of bridge-building and create a wider network of stakeholders in the new relationships made possible on Aug. 13."
Planning for an AJC office in the UAE -- the 13th overseas outpost of the U.S.-based global Jewish advocacy organization and its first in the Arab world -- has been underway for nearly a year. AJC delegations have visited the UAE at least annually for more than 20 years and consulted regularly with senior officials, business and interfaith leaders, diplomats, and policy analysts there and in the United States. AJC Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer Jason Isaacson has led the agency's Arab outreach efforts.
With its move to open a UAE office, AJC also looks forward to deepening its ties with the expatriate Jewish community of the Emirates -- a community AJC played a role in helping establish through repeated visits and introductions over the years.
“Since before the country’s founding, UAE society has encouraged tolerance and inclusion,” said Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to the United States. “AJC’s longstanding dialogue and engagement with the UAE has played a productive role, consistent with this vision. We welcome this announcement, and look forward to working with AJC in the days ahead as they continue their effective engagement in the region.”
This initiative was made possible through the visionary support of Helaine and Sid Lerner, who have been longtime friends and partners of AJC. Mr. Lerner has been particularly focused on advancing relations and understanding among the Muslim, Arab, and Jewish worlds, believing this can be an important contribution to advancing regional and global peace and harmony.
Yehuda Sarna, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Council of the Emirates, welcomed the move, saying, "AJC played an essential convening role early on in the history of our community. Its mission aligns with our aspiration to serve as a 'lighthouse community,' a platform for cross-cultural engagement, within the UAE and beyond. Through its professionalism, care, nuance, and respect for others, AJC has rightly earned the trust of so many leaders in this region."
In the months leading up to the Aug. 13 announcement, UAE officials used AJC platforms to reveal their leadership's new thinking on the benefits of cooperation with Israel -- while also urging a halt to Israeli annexation proposals and progress toward a two-state solution with the Palestinians. UAE Ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh appeared on an AJC Advocacy Anywhere webinar in May; UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar Gargash was a featured speaker in the AJC Virtual Global Forum in June.