Marc Schneier who is called the “Rabbi to the Gulf” said that he anticipates 2019, labelled as the year of tolerance by the UAE, to lead to ‘hopeful times’ and a closer relationship between Arab Gulf states and Israel. He said, “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.”
Treading the same path as the Holy Father of spreading Interfaith harmony, the Rabbi said, “I can foresee it (Pope’s visit to Saudi Arabia) 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, who is president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, established in 1989 with a mission to ease tensions between African Americans and Jews in the US. In 2004 Schneier declared it as “mission accomplished” and decided to turn towards negotiating a solution to the Jews and Muslims issue, which has engulfed the Middle East. “It is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century to bridge the gulf between them,” he said.
While attending the Global Conference of Human Fraternity, being held in Abu Dhabi, (which also coincides with the visit of Pope Francis to the UAE), Schneier propagated Jew-Muslim cooperation and appealed to Arab leaders to strengthen ties with Arab nations and Israel.
Schneier said that he believed Arab leaders were still “concerned” about resolving the Palestine conflict, and the involvement of Gulf nations could bring about a peaceful solution to the Palestine-Israel confrontation.
He added, “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.”
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.
He called for Saudi Arabia to play a greater role in spreading inter-religion cooperation. He said, “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.”