On September 15, the UAE signed the Abrahams Accord with Israel, thus beginning a new era of relationships. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, signed the historic diplomatic peace accord with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in Washington DC. This peace accord, coined as the Abraham Accords Declaration, outlined various sectors for cooperation between the two countries, and by extension, the Middle East region.
With the peace agreement, the stage has been set for regional stability, opportunities for collaboration with previously untapped business potential, investor networking and mutual respect for two of the most future-centric countries in the world.
In line with this, Khaleej Times and The Jerusalem Post, the two largest English-language media organisations in the UAE and Israel, respectively, came together to launch the UAE-Israel Business Summit, in association with UAE-Israel Business Council.
In a special address during the summit, Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress said, "Over my many trips to the Middle East and North Africa, I've had the opportunity to learn from conversations with your leaders, teachers, and ordinary people on the street. It quickly became apparent that we all have the same concerns the same hopes and fears. Today, after years of dreaming of this, we take these first steps together.Â
The initiative represented a new dawn in the multifaceted economic relationship between the two countries and brought together top government officials, business leaders and industry experts from across different sectors, including healthcare, hospitality, defence, security, trade and technology.Â
Trade and Growth
Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, highlighted the growing importance of the countries on a global level. He said, "The UAE and Israel are two of the largest economies in the region with significant potential for economic cooperation. Since the signing of the Abraham Accords, it has been estimated that exports to the UAE could reach between $300 to $500 million annually while UAE's investments in Israel could amount to $350 million annually. This is a testament to the many business opportunities that lie ahead across many sectors."
At the first UAE-Israel Business Summit 2021, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was pleased at how the other countries in the region are following the UAE's lead and opting peace and prosperity by partnering with Israel saying, "Lots of countries are moving in the right direction, even though they have not yet signed the Abraham Accords themselves. I think it is not just countries in the Middle East, but you will see more nations in Africa and Islamic nations in Asia (recognising Abraham Accords). This is the understanding that our nation (US) has initiated and truly augurs well for security throughout the region."
Investment and Tech Partnerships
Part of the summit was a panel with an influential line-up of industry elites, government officials, tech visionaries from both countries. They discussed investments and technology opportunities from various sectors for future growth.
Khalid Al Marqoozi, Director - Commercial, Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD), said, "In Abu Dhabi industrial zones, we have already witnessed many businesses approaching us. In Israel, almost 95 per cent of companies come from the SME sectors, and in Abu Dhabi both KIZAD and ZonesCorp are providing the right ecosystem for those companies to be closer, for example, to raw materials, suppliers, or the service logistics, to make sure they are growing globally."
Positioned as medical tourism destinations, both the UAE and Israel have a large scope to exploit opportunities in this sector. Since 2012, there has been a 12 per cent rise in healthcare expenditure, owing to the compulsory health insurance mandate, which was signed in 2014.
Dr Ibtesam AlBastaki, Director, Public-Private Partnership Department, Dubai Health Authority, spoke on how the partnership between these countries can develop the health sector. "In the next two to three years, we want to invest in rehabilitation, innovative primary healthcare, cardiology and oncology, as speciality treatments. The next three to five years we will look at genetics, precision medicine, which is the future of medicine, research and development, and palliative care, which is missing in this market. There are many private-public partnerships to streamline healthcare services, which will attract more investors," she remarked.
Another panellist was Nir Hollander, Country MÃŸanager for Israel, Cyprus and Greece in Nutanix, a cloud computing company. He gave insights into how the country is looking to expand online business in the region.
"Israel is known as the start-up nation, being the biggest exporters of agritech, fintech, biotech and defence technologies. Outside of Silicon Valley, we have the highest number of start-ups compared to our population size. The UAE has a very innovative culture so we can also learn in return. There's immense activity going on within the country as they set up the infrastructure to support this partnership," said Hollander.Â
Tourism is a natural result of this treaty. Following the signing of the bilateral air transport agreement, airlines in the UAE are operating 28 passenger flights to Tel Aviv every week along with cargo flights. The direct flights are expected to attract around 50,000 Israeli tourists to the UAE and will help boost trade, tourism and hospitality while strengthening cultural ties.
"We are looking forward to having around 100,000 tourists from the UAE. I think this collaboration is the best illustration of how governments sign contracts of normalisation but people are the ones who are truly making peace and there is nothing like tourism to create the connectivity between these amazing civilisations," said Israeli Tourism Minister Orit Farkash Hacohen.
Dr Al Zeyoudi went into further details of how the agreement will affect various other sectors as well.
"In the oil and gas sector, the UAE is looking to invest more in downstream activities, particularly in refining and petrochemical projects as they are projected to be one of the fastest-growing segments of oil demand in the coming years. Israel may be a natural partner for such energy projects," he said.
Â Al Zeyoudi noted that the UAE and Israeli companies are working together to further promote the free flow of trade between Israel and the wider region through the development of a port, free zone and possibility of establishing a direct shipping line between the nations' ports.
Â In space and the advanced technology sector, he stated that the UAE has inspired the region and the world through the launch of the probe to Mars. Israel has also made announcements to send a second spacecraft to the Moon. The nations' space agencies are working together to explore and exchange knowledge and further advance their space sectors.
Â "By 2030, we will see UAE's renewable energy production capacity increase by 400 per cent from 1,800 megawatts to 8,400 megawatts. Israel has more than 1.4 gigawatts of solar power capacity and Israeli companies are developing new technologies like solar thermal plants, improved lithium batteries, hydrogen storage, smart grid solar generation, balancing biofuels and floating solar power that the UAE could either invest in or adapt to," he added on the sustainable front.
He also made a special mention that the UAE has introduced 10-year residence visas for highly qualified professionals including doctors, engineers, inventors and their families, enhancing the UAE's international standing as a global hub for talent, encouraging Israeli professionals to bring their skills to the country and drive the country's transition towards a knowledge-based economy.
Â "We all have a stake in making the region more competitive, more vibrant and more prosperous, and this summit is a great step towards this objective. The UAE looks forward to working with the Israeli governments and business communities to deepen economic ties and to realise the promise that peace offers to the region," Dr Al Zeyoudi said in his closing remarks.
Poonam Chawla, Head of KT Engage and Events and Conferences, "Thanks to the efforts all around we have been able to generate a fantastic conversation. It unequivocally signalled a new dawn. I would like to extend our warmest thanks to all our speakers and panellists who made this possible. The UAE-Israel Peace and Prosperity Roundtable did a deep dive and explored the contours of the new paradigm in the Middle East. Not only has the agreement created a new political discourse it has also laid the foundations for a strong economic bridge between the two countries. It will create an unprecedented force multiplier, something that will tap the immense potential of this region. The roundtable conversations have flagged some of the key sectors that to stand gain immediately. Khaleej Times is honoured to have been the opportunity to play the role of a catalyst."
The keynote speakers included Samir Chaturvedi, CEO, KIZAD; David Leffler, Director General of Ministry of Economy and Industry, Israel; Hamad Buamim, CEO, Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry; Dr Raphael Nagel, Founder and Chairman of The Board, The Abrahamic Business Circle; Dr Mohammed AlRedha, Director of Projects Management Office, Dubai Health Authority; Adel Ahmad Al Redha, COO, Emirates Airline; Fleur Hassan Nahoum, Deputy Mayor, Jerusalem; Dr Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Energy, Israel.
The sponsors and partners included ZonesCorp, Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD), Nutanix, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority, flydubai, World Jewish Congress, Mekorot, Sylvan Adams, L'observateur, Zebra Medical Vision and Steinreich Communications.
Â - With inputs from Suneeti Ahuja