Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister told Jewish organizational leaders this week that his country would be ready for normalized diplomatic relations with Israel as soon as the Jewish state makes peace with its neighbors and that American Jews should lend their full support to the Israeli government in its quest for peace.
Saud al-Faisal made the remarks at his first meeting with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations here Monday.
Saudi Embassy spokesman Adel al-Jubeir played down the significance of the meeting.
“It is not unusual to meet with various private-sector individuals – and we share a common interest in the peace process,” he said.
American Jewish leaders have met with Faisal and other leaders in Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless, there are those who believe that the high-level Saudi representation at the Conference of Presidents’ forum was unprecedented and signaled a clear warming trend.
“It is the first time this kind of meeting has taken place,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the conference. “It signifies a new openness. It sends a positive message that they are ready to escalate the relationship to this level.”
According to Hoenlein and others at the meeting, the foreign minister emphasized Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the peace process, calling it “unshakable.”
He also warned against the “temptation by supporters” of Israel to assume the role of decision-makers in matters related the peace process. But he urged those present to “leave details to negotiators” and to “help the leaders of Israel who are working for a peaceful settlement.”
He said he is “convinced Syria is ready for peace” with Israel and that the differences between the parties are “not insurmountable.” It would be tragic, however, if political opposition got in the way of Israel’s pursuit of an agreement, the foreign minister reportedly said.
According to Hoenlein, Faisal also said there would be no restrictions on visas for U.S. travelers to Saudi Arabia, regardless of their religion.
There have been instances in the past where American Jews were not allowed into the country.
The conference also met this week with the foreign minister of Qatar, Hoenlein said.