ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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PR firm says it may tap US Jews to boost image of UAE oil boss ahead of climate meet

Contract signed by former ADL-Israel head Zev Furst and Abu Dhabi’s Masdar proposes mobilizing ties to ‘US Jewish Establishment’ to improve optics in run-up to UN’s COP28 summit

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

COP28 UAE President Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber attends a joint press conference on the second day of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin, Germany, on May 3, 2023. (John MacDougall/Pool Photo via AP, File)
COP28 UAE President Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber attends a joint press conference on the second day of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin, Germany, on May 3, 2023. (John MacDougall/Pool Photo via AP, File)

A US public relations firm suggested it might “activate or mobilize” connections in the US Jewish community to improve the image of oil magnate Sultan al-Jaber, the controversial pick to lead this year’s United Nations COP28 climate conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

According to a federal disclosure filing with the US Justice Department dated April 8, the First International Resources public relations firm, headed by political strategist Zev Furst, has been employed by Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, Masdar.

Furst, a former director of the Anti-Defamation League in Israel, serves as chairman of the board at Cadogan Petroleum PLC and chairman of the International Board of the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa.

The appointment of al-Jaber, who chairs the state-owned Masdar, has been met with stringent opposition and sparked moves to boycott the confab in Israel and abroad over his deep ties to the oil industry. Earlier this year, 133 US and European politicians called on US, EU, and UN officials to pressure the UAE to withdraw al-Jaber’s appointment.

The contract between Masdar and First International Resources cites goals of strengthening the “overall reputation and standing” of the UAE, al-Jaber and COP28 “among Western audiences;” leveraging this “enhanced reputation” to “inoculate” Al Jaber and COP28 from any potential criticism; and “solidifying” the UAE’s position as an “innovative leader in global decarbonization efforts and the transition away from fossil fuels.”

The filing also notes that Furst’s company will “mobilize its extensive network of contacts to ensure that the campaign’s core messages reach the most influential and appropriate audiences.” It adds that “if appropriate, the consultant could also activate or mobilize our connections inside the ‘US Jewish Establishment’ (sic) to help support the campaign’s overall objectives.”

The company recommends surveying public opinion in various Western countries, and “reinforcing attitudes” among decision-makers in Washington and across Europe regarding the UAE’s “strategic value” in the global fight to address climate change.

A spokesman for Masdar declined to comment to The Times of Israel.

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