Iran's President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Leaders of the United Arab Emirates put almost equal emphasis during talks last week with an American Jewish delegation on the negative regional behavior of Turkey as they did on Iran, Malcolm Hoenlein said Sunday.
Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, made his comments at a press conference following the visit of 70 leaders of American Jewish organizations to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Hoenlein said the group met with the senior leadership of the UAE, though he did not mention specific names.
He said that in addition to Qatar, which is a major concern for the UAE, the leaders expressed concern about the hegemonic desire of Iran and Turkey to recapture the Ottoman and Persian empires.
While Hoenlein said the UAE made no particular requests of him or his organization, they were “anxious to see support for Saudi Arabia.”
Stephen Greenberg, the chairman of the Presidents’ Conference, said the UAE leadership was also keen on getting out the message that the UAE had “boots on the ground” around the region supporting the US efforts.
According to both men, the UAE leaders also talked about tolerance and described efforts by the education system to combat the attraction of radical Islamic extremism to the country’s youth by sending moderate messages to mosques.
Hoenlein stressed that the delegation decided where to travel based on the interests of the American Jewish community and was neither a messenger nor a representative of the US or Israeli governments.
The annual meeting of the Presidents’ Conference in Jerusalem opened on Sunday and will run through Thursday. Each year, before coming to Israel, the group flies to other countries of significance.
On the way back from the UAE, the delegation flew back through Jordan, where they met Crown Prince Hassan.
Hoenlein said that while the issue of deeper ties and recognition of Israel came up consistently, no commitments were made, even regarding whether Israeli athletes in a UAE Judo championship later this year will be able to compete under their own flag. In 2017, the UAE would not allow the Israelis to compete under Israel’s flag.
Hoenlein said the UAE leadership expressed concern about how the Palestinian issue plays on the country’s streets. “Help us resolve the Palestinian issue, it is an obstacle,” Hoenlein quoted one of the leaders as saying. He said, “You do not find the passion on this issue” that you have seen in the past.
Hoenlein was in the UAE last year with a smaller delegation.
Hoenlein said that along with criticism of Israel and its policies, there was also “great frustration” with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s “hypocrisy” and “failure to come to the table.”
“The tone is much different,” he said.
Greenberg said that along with an interest in cooperating with Israel on security issues and combating extremism, the UAE would like to see the Palestinian issue removed so that the country could also deal with Israel economically, as it is trying to move its economy from an oil-dependent economy to a hi-tech one.
Hoenlein said that his interlocutors were satisfied that under US President Donald Trump the US “is engaged again.” Hoenlein, who travels widely in the Arab world, said during the term of president Barack Obama he would often hear that the US beats up on its friends and is kinder to its enemies.
This, he said, is something that is no longer heard.