ABU DHABI (Reuters) – A US special envoy said on Thursday he had discussed prejudice against Jews with officials in Saudi Arabia ahead of President Joe Biden’s visit next week, which could help bring the state and Israel closer together.
Deborah Lipstad, a State Department monitor and anti-war special envoy, said she discussed ways to deal with hatred, including teaching Jews how to be indigenous to the Middle East.
“There is a good part of history and a bad part of history but there is a history of Jews in this region. There is a history of Jews and Muslims living together here,” said Lipstad, who went to Saudi Arabia on June 26. 11-day regional tour.
Speaking to Reuters at the U.S. embassy in Abu Dhabi, Lipstad said his inaugural visit as special envoy, which included a visit to Israel shortly after Saudi Arabia, was not a precursor to Biden’s visit despite having a similar schedule.
Biden will visit Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Saudi Arabia from July 13-16, a visit Western officials say, in part, aimed at bringing Israel and Saudi Arabia closer together, although normalization is unlikely to result.
A leading scholar, Lipstad, says Saudi Arabia has taken “positive steps” in the fight against Zionism, including changes to the curriculum and religious advice in the state of Mecca, Islam’s holiest site.
“There is a serious reduction in hostility towards the Jews. This is a big thing. This is a very big thing,” he warned, adding that the measures taken so far were not enough and more were needed.
Saudi Arabia has softened its anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric since establishing formal relations with its neighbors the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain Israel in 2020, breaking decades of Arab policy that first called for a Palestinian state.
A small number of Jews now go to the kingdom in public without concealing their faith, sometimes spreading their presence there to thousands of social media followers.
“One of the things I’ve seen in Saudi Arabia that is very present here in the UAE is the desire to divide or segregate in the region’s geopolitical crisis, which is a serious political issue – one that my country is working very hard to resolve. .But to say, hatred of Jews should not be combined with contempt of Jews, “said Lipstad.
But despite the social changes, Saudi leaders have so far confirmed that there can be no progress in normalization with Israel without an agreement on Palestinian statehood.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Howard Golar)
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