The Times of Israel
3 September 2020
The American Jewish Committee announced Wednesday that it plans to open an office in the United Arab Emirates following last month’s normalization agreement between Israel and the UAE.
The office will be the Jewish advocacy group’s first in the Arab world and 13th outside the US.
“The establishment of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel realizes a vision that AJC has helped to pursue for decades,” said AJC CEO David Harris in a statement.
Planning for the the new office has been underway for roughly a year, the group said, adding that it has been sending annual delegations to meet with senior officials and community leaders in the UAE for over 20 years.
In the months leading up to the normalization agreement, announced August 13, UAE officials used AJC platforms to reveal their government’s growing interest in openly cooperating with Israel, while also calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to forgo plans to annex large parts of the West Bank and pursue a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
UAE Ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh addressed an AJC webinar in May and UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash spoke at the group’s global forum a month later.
The Wednesday announcement was welcomed by the UAE’s Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba, who said in a statement that “AJC’s longstanding dialogue and engagement with the UAE has played a productive role, consistent with this vision [of encouraging tolerance and inclusion]. We… look forward to working with AJC in the days ahead as they continue their effective engagement in the region.”
Also on Wednesday, the World Zionist Organization announced that it would send permanent emissaries to the Jewish community in the UAE for the first time.
A young married couple, Yaacov and Zolty Eisenstein, will be the pioneer emissaries, WZO said in a statement. They will establish and run a Jewish kindergarten, and teach about Jewish heritage and Israel. They also will establish an ulpan for learning Hebrew and organize community events around the Jewish festivals.
“The historic decision made by Prime Minister Netanyahu to normalize relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates has boosted significantly this process,” the statement said, revealing that plans had been in the works for several months.
WZO said the subject had been discussed during meetings held Monday and Tuesday by the Israeli delegation to the UAE, headed by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.
The emissaries are part of the “Ben Ami” program of the Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora of the WZO, which has 36 emissaries operating in 23 countries with small and dispersed Jewish communities.
On Monday, the Jewish Agency for Israel and Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, an Israeli humanitarian group, announced that they would begin providing services to the UAE Jewish community of over 1,000.