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US Jewish leaders to visit United Arab Emirates in coming days

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Malcolm Hoenlein

Malcolm Hoenlein. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

In yet another sign of rapprochement with the Persian Gulf states, a group of prominent US Jewish organizational leaders led by Malcolm Hoenlein will travel in the coming days to the United Arab Emirates.

Members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which Hoenlein leads as its executive vice chairman, will travel to Abu Dhabi and Dubai as part of their annual leadership mission before coming to Israel. The group’s annual conference in Jerusalem will begin a week from Sunday.

The visit comes amid increasing small signs of normalized interaction between Israel and the Gulf states, including reports on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia will allow Air India to fly over its territory on flights to and from Israel, and a 23-person delegation from Bahrain that visited Israel in December.

Hoenlein told The Jerusalem Post that the aim is to “foster better ties with the US, the American Jewish community and Israel.”

Although this is not the first time his organization will bring a delegation to the UAE, he said it will be the largest.

“Each year the conference goes to another country before coming to Israel,” he said. Among countries visited in previous years were Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Bahrain, Qatar, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

The trip comes quickly on the heels of a trip Hoenlein made to Qatar in November, when he met with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. A number of other prominent US Jewish leaders have also visited Qatar in recent weeks.

The UAE, as well as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, are a loggerheads with Qatar, having cut diplomatic ties and imposed a blockade on Qatar last summer.

Hoenlein has for many years maintained covert ties with the leaders of Arab and Muslim countries, and regularly holds meetings with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Azerbaijan and other Middle East states.

He met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2011, just before the outbreak of the civil war there, and reportedly carried a message from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Hoenlein, who was in Israel this week, said he will not be delivering any message to the UAE from Jerusalem.

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