A tremendous opportunity

The potential for success and growth is promising

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Fleur Hassan-NahoumDeputy Mayor of Jerusalem
Fleur Hassan-NahoumDeputy Mayor of Jerusalem

Published: Thu 18 Nov 2021, 1:30 PM

The Abraham Accords created the groundwork for unprecedented growth and prosperity in our region. The energy and pace of the relationship-building over the past year is unprecedented and remarkable. The first year was incredibly exciting and eventful, year two will continue that great trajectory.

The first year of the Israel-UAE relationship was successful, especially considering that it was a pandemic year where travel and some business sectors faced tremendous challenges. Yet, the collaborations and MOUs persisted, and the travelers came by the planeload. I am not sure whether the architects of the Accords could have ever imagined the impressive range of collaborations. From ministers from both countries signing deals about energy and water, to space exploration, to economic agreements, all the way to civil organisations working in the fields of music, art, and theater. The Houbara Wildlife Fund, which protects the national bird of the UAE, signed an MOU with our Nature and Parks Authority. We also believe that our two countries share a commitment in the social services sphere and Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein and I are leading an initiative to improve the lives of people of determination across the Middle East. Collaborations have even extended to the field of sports. I had the pleasure of being on a panel once with Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s Ambassador to the United States, who was impressed that a little league team from Israel was flying to Dubai, something they never would have imagined.

We should take stock and feel proud that people are taking this peace forward not only with their hearts and minds, but also with their feet. And there seems to be no sense of slowing down as we head into the future.

Thinking strategically, the future is quite bright from Jerusalem's vantage point and where we see this heading and I believe that tourism and technology will lead the way. Jerusalem, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi are heavily dependent on international tourism. Jerusalem is particularly significant in this arena as the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif is one of the holiest sites for Muslims and one which a large majority have dreamed of visiting. When our skies finally open next month, I foresee a new type of tourism that Jerusalem has never known before in significant numbers – the Muslim pilgrims. The city is already creating and preparing the infrastructure for this, and the Arab population in Jerusalem who are represented in large numbers in the service industry can play a significant role in ushering this change.

In tech, there is a double bottom line for my city. Jerusalem is the most diverse city in the country with the highest number of academic institutions. Our places of higher learning are the intellectual capital and engine of the start-up nation. We are working hard with the tech community in East Jerusalem to provide the resources they need to continue developing opportunities for young people and building an era of common goals and mutual success. Over the last few years, we have seen more Arab youth studying engineering and joining the high-tech workforce. In Jerusalem, we are making huge efforts to reach out to the Arab population and provide opportunities for the younger creative classes of engineers who have recently graduated.

There is huge potential for UAE-Israel and the UAE-Jerusalem relationships in this area and we are using our diverse human capital to become the R&D hub for the Middle East. To this end, we are working on a mass development project in the Wadi Joz area called Silicon Wadi. This project is the most ambitious plan for the economic development of East Jerusalem we have ever seen. The goal is to provide quality employment and opportunity on the local level in order to improve people's daily lives and standard of living. The Abraham Accords has created further opportunity for this and we now plan to include new hotels and commercial centres which will catapult our efforts to create sustainable regional prosperity.

The strategic partnerships forged through the Abraham Accords in every area have exponentially increased the potential prosperity of the region, our country, and Jerusalem in particular. And there is no doubt, if we continue at this pace, we will see flourishing prosperity for generations to come.

— Fleur Hassan-Nahoum is the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, overseeing the Foreign Relations, Economic Development and Tourism portfolio. She is also the Co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council and the Co-Founder of the Gulf-Israel Women’s Forum.

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