WASHINGTON – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman met with leaders of the organized Jewish community in New York as part of his two-week tour of the East and West Coasts, sparking criticism from Qatar.

Qatar’s state-funded network, Al Jazeera, accused the crown prince of meeting with “rightwing Jewish groups” that fund “illegal settlement building” and “guard the gates of Washington.”

The Al Jazeera piece further states that Jewish organizations represented in the meeting seek to “stifle” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which the network defines as an effort “to economically pressure Israel into providing equal rights and a right of return to Palestinians.”

The meetings last week were strictly off-record, and details of the crown prince’s conversations with heads of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations, B’nai B’rith International and the Jewish Federations remain largely under wraps.

But the very existence of a meeting marks a turning point for the US Jewish community, which has for decades lacked any communications channel with Saudi leadership historically hostile to Israel.

Jewish leaders tell The Jerusalem Post they see Muhammad’s accessibility as a sign he is serious about warming relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Participants in the meeting otherwise declined to comment for this article.

In Washington, after talks with US President Donald Trump at the White House, Muhammad met with the administration’s “peace team” working on a comprehensive proposal to end the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. That team, led by the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and his special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, hopes that support for their plan from Riyadh and the wider Arab world will boost its prospects for success.

Qatari leaders have met with some of the same Jewish figures in recent months, including the head of the Conference of Presidents, Malcolm Hoenlein, as well as Mort Klein of the Zionist Organization of America. The Al Jazeera article makes no mention of the Qatari meetings.

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