Rabbi predicts ‘historic times’ ahead for Jews, Muslims in Gulf

The religious leader and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding predicts that diplomatic relations between one or two Gulf states and Israel could be established by as soon as the end of this year. (AN Photo/Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 05 February 2019
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Rabbi predicts ‘historic times’ ahead for Jews, Muslims in Gulf

  • The religious leader and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding predicts that diplomatic relations between one or two Gulf states and Israel could be established by as soon as the end of this year
  • There are five interfaith centers involving countries from the GCC, with the Saudi center located in Vienna, Austria

ABU DHABI: The Middle East is on the brink of embarking on an “historic” new era of cooperation between Jews and Muslims, according to “Rabbi to the Gulf” Marc Schneier.
The religious leader and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding predicts that diplomatic relations between one or two Gulf states and Israel could be established by as soon as the end of this year. 
Schneier told Arab News that stronger relations between the ruling families of the Arabian Gulf and Israel, as well as common economic interests, made the need for increased understanding between Jewish and Muslim communities vital in the face of the “existentialist threat” each faced from Iranian expansion.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Global Conference of Human Fraternity, being held in Abu Dhabi, and coinciding with the visit of Pope Francis to the UAE, Schneier said these were “hopeful times” for the whole region.
“I have nothing against the Iranian people and there is a hope that they will come to their senses at this point. But the Iranian regime is a threat to the Gulf and to Israel,” the rabbi said.
He added that he and his organization had nothing against Shiite Muslims, and that he enjoyed good personal relations with Ilham Aliyev, president of Azerbaijan, the only official Shiite state in the world other than Iran.
But Schneier expects even closer relations to be formed between Arab Gulf states and Israel. “I would be so bold as to predict that by the end of 2019 we will see the establishment of diplomatic relations between one or two Gulf states and Israel.”
Another reason for improving bonds between Jews and Muslims, he said, was the desire by Arab leaders to strengthen ties with the US under President Donald Trump. 
Schneier said he believed Arab leaders were still “concerned” about the issue of Palestine, and that Gulf involvement could help bring about a peaceful solution in the Palestine-Israel confrontation.   
He did not rule out a visit by the pope to Saudi Arabia sometime in the future. “I can foresee it because Pope Francis has a very pure agenda. He also needs to build relations between Christians and Muslims. The Kingdom is heading in the right direction by being more progressive and recognizing a common faith.”
Schneier’s New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding was established in 1989 as a vehicle to soothe tensions between African Americans and Jews in the US. In 2004 Schneier said he felt it was “mission accomplished” in that respect and decided to approach the problem of relations between Jews and Muslims. “It is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century to bridge the gulf between them,” he said.
In 2007 he was asked by the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to get involved in an initiative for interfaith dialogue that took place under Saudi auspices in Madrid, Spain.
There are five interfaith centers involving countries from the GCC, with the Saudi center located in Vienna, Austria. Others are in the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar.
“I like to be able to visit Vienna. It is a multicultural city, and that is where my family came from before they moved to the US, after surviving the Jewish Holocaust in Europe,” he added.
Last Saturday Schneider attended a sabbath service at a Jewish synagogue in Dubai, which for some years has been the center for Jewish worship in the emirate, serving the religious needs of Jewish business visitors to the UAE.  


Trump spoke with Abu Dhabi crown prince on Thursday: White House

Updated 19 April 2019
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Trump spoke with Abu Dhabi crown prince on Thursday: White House

  • The two leaders discussed Washington’s continued support for the UAE

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump spoke by phone on Thursday with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, the White House said in a statement.
The two leaders discussed Washington’s “continued support for the United Arab Emirates’ national defense, strengthening alliances in the region, and the impact of the Administration’s crippling sanctions on Iran,” the statement said.
“They also spoke about UAE’s contributions to the global energy markets as a reliable supplier of oil,” it said.