Only a month ago a visit by an Gulf Arab state leader to Israel would have seemed unimaginable to most people, even to many world leaders and Middle East analysts.

But the unimaginable is apparently going to happen.

The leader of the United Arab Emirates will visit Jerusalem, a senior UAE official told ALL ARAB NEWS in an exclusive interview, because he wants a “comprehensive peace” with Israel and her people.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan (widely known by his initials, MBZ) is the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the de facto ruler of the island kingdom. He has not yet said publicly he is coming to Jerusalem. But this UAE official — in an on-the-record interview you can watch below — made it clear that the crown prince regards such a visit as entirely consistent with true and full normalization between the two countries.

MBZ also wants to strengthen the Palestinian people and see the creation of a Palestinian state.

The news of MBZ’s apparent readiness to visit Jerusalem comes as senior Israeli and American diplomats are in Abu Dhabi this week hammering out the details of the historic peace accord.


 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday invited a delegation of senior UAE diplomats who are hosting his team to come to Jerusalem for continued high-level talks. Netanyahu promised to roll out the red carpet for them, reciprocating the warm welcome the Israelis have received in the UAE capital.

Until now, it has not been reported that the UAE crown prince is ready to come to Jerusalem.

On a personal note, this has been a dream and a prayer of mine for several years.

In October 2018, I personally invited the crown prince to visit Jerusalem, where I call home. I made the invitation when I brought a delegation of Evangelical leaders, at his invitation, to meet with him in the royal palace in Abu Dhabi.

Our sense was that this was not so far away — a matter of timing more than principle for the UAE leader.

The crown prince’s visit to the Israeli capital and the third holiest city in Islam, if it really happens, would be the most dramatic arrival of an Arab leader since Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat came on Nov. 19 and 20, 1977. In addition to meeting with senior Israeli officials, Sadat prayed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, visited the Dome of the Rock, toured the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and addressed the Israeli parliament.

News of the crown prince’s intention to visit Jerusalem emerged in an exclusive interview I conducted via Zoom with Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi.

Dr. Al Nuaimi is the chairman of the Defense, Interior and Foreign Affairs Committee at the UAE’s Federal National Council. A businessman and media entrepreneur by background, he is also chairman of Hedayah, the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism.

I first met Dr. Al Nuaimi in October 2018 when I led the first-ever delegation of Evangelical leaders to officially come to the UAE and to meet with senior government officials there, as well as Muslim and Christian leaders. Dr. Al Nuaimi sat next to the crown prince during our two-hour meeting together in the palace. We also spent several hours at the Hedayah Center, where he briefed us on the work the UAE is doing to identify and counter hate speech and violent extremism speech and planning in the media and especially on social media.

Joel C. Rosenberg meeting with Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, a senior UAE official, in Abu Dhabi in October 2018. (photo credit: All Arab News staff)

 

Several months ago, I asked Dr. Al Nuaimi if he would consider joining the Advisory Board for ALL ARAB NEWS. I wanted his counsel as I try to provide better, fairer and more insightful coverage of events and trends in the Arab and Muslim world, especially for the world’s 600 million Evangelical Christians around the world who are deeply interested in the region and are commanded in the Bible to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” in Psalm 122:6.

Dr. Al Nuaimi agreed immediately, and was the second leader to join the Advisory Board after Saudi Sheikh Mohammed al-Issa, the head of the Muslim World League.

Here are excerpts from my exclusive interview with him.

ROSENBERG: One of the principles that you and I and, of course, the crown prince, [have been] discussing in recent years is that you don’t have to agree on everything politically or theologically or in other areas in order to still build a friendship and trust. Obviously, Muslims and Evangelical Christians don’t see eye to eye on issues related to the Bible or the Qur’an. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.

I was particularly struck that the crown prince didn’t just invite Evangelicals, but he invited me as the head of the delegation, as both an American and an Israeli citizen. At the time he told me, “Joel, I am ready to make peace with Israel.” We were shocked that he said that.

Do you know when, or even more importantly, how, the crown prince came to that decision – even several years ago – that it’s time to find a way to make peace with Israel?

AL NUAIMI: Well, you know, our crown prince is a visionary person. And he has the courage to take the hard decision. He believed in that we as a nation, the UAE, we should carry the mission of counter-extremism in the region and in the world. And you know that [because] I briefed you about what we were doing [when you visited Abu Dhabi]. In order to achieve that, we had to promote peace, and look for a partner who believed in peace. And, you know, if you want to have peace in the region, you have to create peace with Israel. This is the first step. This is the strong message. And this is why I said [that] he was willing to take the hard decision. He has the courage to do that, because this is an issue that had been there for decades, and [he knew] you will need to shake the region. So, he believed that we should do this move, but he was waiting for the right time. When he saw the opportunity, he didn’t miss it, and he made that decision.

ROSENBERG: The Bible says, “Everything is beautiful in its time,” and, “There is a time and season for everything – a time for war, and a time for peace.” I am certainly encouraged that your crown prince believes this is a time for peace….Can you tell us when the signing ceremony is going to be with the crown prince coming to Washington and doing an event with the Israeli leadership at the White House?

AL NUAIMI: Well, I believe it’s in September.

ROSENBERG: Going back to my previous point about inviting the crown prince to Jerusalem, you’ll recall also that I wrote an article in the Jerusalem Post, an open letter [to the crown prince]. I wasn’t allowed at the time to say exactly what he had said to me, but I said [in the Post], “Please come and visit and start the peace process.”

Do you anticipate that the leadership, including perhaps the crown prince himself, will eventually come to Jerusalem?

AL NUAIMI: Yes. You see, when you talk about peace, we are talking about comprehensive peace. We are talking about breaking all those walls and boundaries and building these bridges. So, for our relations, the sky is the limit. One thing that I want to mention, actually, is that we need to work hard on countering the hate narrative in the region and worldwide. It is a shared responsibility. It is the real challenge that I see since the announcement of the UAE-Israeli peace treaty.

[To watch the full interview, conducted over Zoom, please click here.]

TOMORROW: In part two of my interview with Dr. Al Nuaimi, we will discuss the message that the UAE leadership wants to send to the Palestinians, as well as to the Israelis.

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