By Eli Levi, Business Editor
Editor’s Note: This article has been modified to include the co-sponsor for the event.
On November 22, 2021, the YU Political Action Club (YUPAC), in conjunction with the Schneier Program for International Relations, hosted a live recording of Jason Greenblatt’s Newsweek podcast The Diplomat. Greenblatt is a former Middle East peace envoy, and at this event he hosted the Bahrain Ambassador to the U.S., Shaikh Abdullah Bin Rashid Al Khalifa. The event was titled “The Abraham Accords and the Changing Middle East” and comes weeks after a previous event focusing on events in the Middle East and the relationship between Jews and Muslims featuring Sheikh Mohammed al Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League.
The co-presidents of YUPAC, Alexander Friedman and Avigail Winokur, were instrumental in bringing the event together. In Friedman’s opening remarks, he introduced the Shaikh, who, after a four-year term as governor of Bahrain’s Southern Governorate and subsequent reappointment, was appointed as a Bahrain Ambassador to the United States from Bahrain. As outlined by Friedman, the Shaikh also played an important role in the signing of the Abraham Accords, a joint statement between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States stating the public normalization of relations between the countries. Friedman also credited the interest of the student body, as indicated by the rather large turnout, for pushing for this event.
In conversation with Greenblatt, when asked what the audience could do to further the Abraham Accords, the Shaikh said to pay close attention to what is going on in the Middle East and to realize how groundbreaking and historic the signing of the Abraham Accords was. The Shaikh talked about the king of Bahrain, saying that he has always promoted peace and that there is lots of positivity coming out of the region. Bahrain has had a Jewish community since the 1800s, and they had even set up a synagogue for the Jews that immigrated there.
One of the topics discussed was Bahrain’s growing economy. The Shaikh spoke about how Bahrain doubled its exports and has a free trade agreement with the United States. He went on to say that the Bahrain government recently signed a document giving a plot of land for United States businesses as well as Bahrain’s burgeoning Fintech and artificial intelligence (AI) industry. Later, the Shaikh also reflected on the major U.S. presence due to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet being parked near Bahrain. Additionally, the Shaikh mentioned the 130-year relationship between the U.S. and Bahrain and that it started when some missionaries came and built a dispensary in Bahrain, which is still standing today.
The Shaikh’s closing thoughts centered on always keeping communication open in any circumstance, and he stressed that students should have a similar mindset: to always be open-minded and open to discussion.
The event ended with a live Q&A session. Co-president Winokur began her question by first thanking Mr. Greenblatt and the Ambassador and saying, “We look forward to continuing the dialogue and hope to have many more YUPAC events.” Winokur then continued and asked about some of the backlash from some groups regarding the signing of the Accords. The Shaikh said that when they signed the Accords, they were more surprised by the overwhelming support of the majority of the population and included that the dissenters were few and primarily from radical groups. The Shaikh ended the event with the message that the future of Abraham Accords is about building friendships and partnerships.
Presidents Winokur and Friedman shared their excitement about the success of the event, telling the YU Observer, “It was a great honor to bring this groundbreaking event to YU which celebrated the Abraham Accords and the new opportunities brought by it. The event was a tremendous success, with almost 100 students in attendance and over 2,000 people watching the livestream. It gives me special pride that it was students that proposed this event and played a major role in its planning, showing that YU students can be at the forefront of change in the world.”
Photo Credit: YUPAC’s Instagram Story