Rabbi hopes Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, others will normalize with Israel

There is a need for Israel to move on the Palestinian issue. Most Gulf countries expect to see some changes and an opening by Israel to the Palestinians.

Rabbi Marc Schneier in Abu Dhabi (photo credit: FOUNDATION FOR ETHNIC UNDERSTANDING)
Rabbi Marc Schneier in Abu Dhabi
Rabbi Marc Schneier, an adviser to leaders in the Gulf, believes there will be more peace deals. In an interview last week in Dubai, he spoke about what the future could look like.
Schneier, who has worked for peace and coexistence in the region for many years, is the president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. We met at the Fairmont at the Palm, an exquisite area of Dubai. 
“For 12 years I’ve been working on this,” he said. “As someone who paved the way, I see this as two down and four to go in the Gulf. I won’t be content until I see Qataris, Saudis, Omanis and Kuwaitis join as well. Then you will see a transformation.”
Qatar is preparing for the World Cup, and Schneier thinks it is a natural fit for Israel.
“Qataris are very excited about welcoming Israelis for the World Cup,” he said.
Schneier has worked on addressing the needs of kosher cuisine in Doha.
“In regard to the question about Israeli guests coming to watch the games, the Qataris have already said that they will be allowed to do so,” he said. “But I believe that by November 2022 [the start of the World Cup], we will already see relations between them and Israel.”
“At the same time, I think people who analyze the Gulf don’t listen and choose not to listen, and that there is a pronouncement coming from Saudi Arabia and Qatar that until the Palestinian issue is addressed, not necessarily resolved, they will not recognize Israel,” he added.
Schneier predicted that US President-elect Joe Biden’s policy will be “more in concert with the Saudis and Qataris than [that of US President Donald] Trump. He feels the same way about the Palestinians. I believe he can bring this baby home in terms of getting Qataris and Saudis on board.”
Israel needs to move on the Palestinian issue, he said. Most Gulf countries expect to see some changes and a gesture by Israel to the Palestinians.
Schneier also wants to see the Gulf crisis between Qatar and Saudi Arabia resolved.
“I do commend Jared Kushner [senior adviser to the president] for his last attempt to reunite the Gulf Cooperation Council,” he said. “This conflict with Qatar is having adverse impact on Qatar normalizing relations.”
Biden could move things forward, Schneier said.
“I believe that President-elect Biden will actually move this forward at a quicker pace because the Saudis have been very clear that in order to come closer to Israel, they need to see some movement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.
In contrast to the focus on the UAE in recent weeks, Schneier cited Qatar as a country that has worked with Israel in the past.
“I take pride in my unique position,” he said. “People wondered how could I have an intimate relationship with the King of Bahrain and Emir of Qatar. I’m not pro-either side; I’m pro-Gulf.”
Qatar is the Switzerland of the Gulf, Schneier said, but it is closer to Turkey and Iran than other Gulf states would like.
“Qatar won’t turn down Turkey and Iran,” he said. “Israel can’t continue in a state of conflict with Iran and Turkey, so Israel can say it has the capacity to handle Iran and Turkey. But Qatar could be an effective channel. Never underestimate the Qataris. They are very sharp.”
Schneier believes there could be change in Iran and Turkey in terms of their negative view of Israel.
“Iran and Turkey can change,” he said. “I’m not suggesting it will happen immediately, but you need those channels. The Emir of Qatar has said to me, ‘Rabbi, Qatar, Israel and Singapore, countries that fly above their weight,’ and you don’t underestimate Qatar. It’s small and influential.”