Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein and ZOA Chair Mark Levenson, Esq. released the following statement:
The ZOA welcomes reports of meetings in Neom, Saudi Arabia on Sunday among Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Such meetings are important steps in the right direction. We hope that such meetings will help widen the circle of peace, prosperity, and trade relations in the Middle East, and will add Saudi-Israeli normalization to the recent Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan, despite our concerns that Israeli sovereignty in parts of Judea/Samaria has been put on temporary hold.
These meetings, and improved Saudi-Israeli relations, could also serve as a vital bulwark for countering and withstanding the Iranian Islamic terrorist regime’s ongoing, dangerous, malign nuclear and terror activities. Just yesterday, Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen hit an oil facility near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with another cruise missile. And just a few days ago, Israel discovered that a Syrian squad led by Iranian forces had again planted anti-personnel mines near Israeli positions in the Golan Heights.
Projected President-elect Biden’s stated plan to re-enter the catastrophic Iran deal would dramatically increase Iran’s terror and nuclear activities, and heighten the mortal danger to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the entire region (as well as to the U.S.).
Last February, we (ZOA President Mort Klein and ZOA Chair Mark Levenson) traveled to Saudi Arabia with other Jewish organizational leaders. We were delighted by the Saudi officials’ warm hospitality and statements of friendship, and their desire to improve relations with Israel and the Jewish community.
After a beautiful and exceptionally eloquent speech by His Excellency Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, ZOA President Morton Klein was honored to ask the first question during the Q&A. Mr. Klein stated: “We’re all delighted and heartened to hear about your desire to improve relations among the Saudis and the Israelis. Your words of wishing to educate young Saudis about the appropriateness and mutual benefits of enhanced relations with Israel was especially encouraging. However, in this room, directly behind you, is a very large map of the world, which shows every country on earth, yet wrongly does not show Israel. Instead, the large map shows “Palestine” covering all of Israel. How can Saudi Arabia educate Saudi youth and other Saudis of the mutual benefits of promoting relations with Israel and to end antagonism toward Israel if Israel is not even shown on the Saudi maps?
“The maps send the opposite message from the message that you want to promote. Official Saudi maps in Saudi Arabia and the maps we saw on the Saudi airline that we flew in on also didn’t show Israel – sending the wrong message that either Israel doesn’t exist or shouldn’t exist. I believe all of us here are deeply troubled by this continuing lack of official recognition of and even denial of Israel’s very existence as indicated on Saudi Arabia’s maps. We respectfully ask that these maps will be changed to reflect reality.”
Minister Al-Jubeir turned around and looked at the wall map and seemed genuinely surprised to see Israel missing. He immediately and earnestly promised that he would immediately see to it that the maps are corrected. He promised me and all of us that the next time we visit, Israel will be indicated on all official Saudi maps, including the Saudi airline maps. After the Q & A was over, I went over to Minister Al-Jubeir and he again privately reiterated his promise to me.
We have not been in Saudi Arabia since February, and thus do not know firsthand whether or not the maps were corrected there. Regrettably, we have been told that they have not been changed. We also noticed today that the map on Saudi Arabia’s official travel website still does not show “Israel” and instead covers Israel with the word “Palestine.”
ZOA looks forward to Minister Al-Jubeir and Saudi Arabia fulfilling their promise, of almost 10 months ago, to correct her official maps and all other maps to accurately and realistically show Israel’s existence and being part of the Middle East.