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Special: UAE, Israel can make the desert bloom

Elie Wurtman
Filed on September 28, 2020

(Agencies file)

Israelis are dreamers. We dream about peace, prosperity and the unbounded potential of human creativity.

In February of this year, months before there was any news of a peace treaty, Ibrahim Ajami, a courageous UAE investor, publicly invited Israelis to invest in his country. Many more invitations followed from business and government leaders in the Gulf.

As a serial entrepreneur who visited the UAE earlier this year, I am excited to accept these invitations and look forward to hosting my colleagues in the Gulf when they visit my hometown, Jerusalem.

These invitations are proof of the momentum that started well before the Abraham Accords were formally signed. We now have the opportunity to continue to expand business partnerships in multiple industries, including cyber, biotech, and fintech. We can make the Middle Eastern desert bloom and tackle environmental challenges by advancing water technology, desert agriculture, and solar power.

Beyond forging mutually beneficial business partnerships, I invite you to engage in a bigger conversation about how we can shape the future of the Middle East, together. We can accomplish this by focusing on our countries' respective strengths to invest in a joint future.

Research in positive psychology demonstrates that focusing on strengths significantly improves individual and organisational performance. When an organisation asks, "What worked for us in 2019?" that mere exploration is likely to bring about an increase in both organisational effectiveness and employee satisfaction. The same is true on national level.

In my visit to Dubai earlier this year, I was surprised and deeply moved to learn about a new ministry launched by the government in 2019, the Ministry of Possibilities. A first of its kind in the world, the ministry brings together leading professionals from government and private sectors and empowers them to tackle the most critical civil challenges. Using design thinking and experimentation, these teams are committed to improving quality of life by developing "proactive and disruptive solutions."

These pledges are not only broadcast on federal websites or proclaimed by government officials. They are inscribed, simply and unapologetically, all over the city. I roamed the streets of Dubai, and the words of possibility came to life, decorating exquisite pictures, draping the magnificent architecture and alternating seamlessly on digital banners.

The ultimate goal of these words is to remind the people of the UAE, as they go about their day, that their lives matter; that they are capable; that they can make a difference; and ultimately - that they can change the world.

It seems to be working with change well on its way in the UAE. Human accomplishment is evident in the stunning architecture, the smart cities, the innovative tech companies, and the thriving economy. In 2019, the UAE's estimated GDP was $421 billion, the second largest economy in the Arab world.

At the launch of the Ministry of Possibilities, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, elegantly captured the mindset at the nexus of this change: "The future brings challenges that require constant government restructuring. The word 'impossible' does not exist in our dictionary. It is not part of our vision and will never be part of our future." These words were music to my ears. The words of possibility - spoken so boldly and physically manifested so gracefully everywhere across the UAE - touched me deeply. I strongly believe in the power of humans to transform vision into reality.

Israelis are dreamers. We dream about peace, prosperity and the unbounded potential of human creativity. And, we believe in making things happen.

A future of peace and prosperity belongs to those who can imagine it and make it happen. By combining and leveraging the strengths of both our societies - embracing possibility and executing boldly - and by jointly investing in the next generation, I believe that the Abraham Accords can open up new opportunities for the people of our own countries, and for millions of Abraham's descendants living in the Middle East and around the globe.

Elie Wurtman is co-founder and Managing Partner at PICO Venture Partners


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