Israel’s participation at Expo 2020 Dubai is being hailed as a major milestone in developing relations between both nations. Spearheaded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel’s pavilion is a must-see at Expo 2020 Dubai. Located in the opportunity district, the pavilion is a place for collaboration and innovation. The country’s participation comes with the key message of inclusion and togetherness, embracing this to create a better future for all humanity. One year since the signing of the Abraham Accords, collaboration between Israel and UAE is moving forward and the relationship between the two countries already has a series of significant trade deals in place. According to Dubai custom's figures, during only the first five months since the signing of the Abraham Accords, bilateral trade had already amounted to $250 million. As of August 29, 2021, overall trade value reached roughly $675 million.
The Federation of Israel’s Chambers of Commerce has reported that in recent months, the total volume of trade between Israel and the UAE (exports and imports of goods and services) has reached more than $100 million per month. If current trends continue, it is expected to bring trade by the end of 2021 to around $1.5 billion. This annual order is similar to that of Israel’s trade dealings with countries such as Russia or Brazil, with whom it has had bilateral trade agreements in place for many years.
Signing trade deals
To date, more than 10 agreements and memorandum of understandings have been signed and ratified, or are in the process of ratification. They include agreement on investments, aviation, finance, visa exemptions, double taxation, as well as MoUs on financial services, science and technology, investment authorities, prevention of money laundering, health and on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates.
The Israeli pavilion, produced by AVS, a company headed by Malki Shem-Tov, and designed by Knafo Klimor Architects, is 15 metres high and a 1,550 square metres built up area. The architecture draws its inspiration from the arid landscapes of Israel and other Middle Eastern countries, adopting the shape of undulating sand dunes and shaded Middle Eastern streets. Seven LED screen gates at 15 m high using 630 sqm LED panels, creating a significant open space for people to gather, discuss and share ideas, frame these dunes. The Israeli pavilion plot area comprises a built indoor area of 765 sqm with an additional outer shaded area of 828 sqm. The dune surface area is 986 sqm. On top of the dune, there is a large, illuminated, feature sign, 15m long and 5m high, using an aluminium structure with a translucent front cover and LED lighting fixtures inside. The sign is formed from letters in ‘Aravrit’, a font invented by the typographer, Liron Lavi Turkenich. Aravit is a hybrid of two local scripts, combining Hebrew and Arabic characters. Each letter is composed of Arabic on the upper half and Hebrew on the lower half. The meaning of the sign text in both languages is the same, ‘Towards Tomorrow’.
In the main hall inside the pavilion, a 360-degree immersive show on 250SQM of screen, presents Israel’s innovation for a better future. The challenges of our time are highlighted in medicine and healthcare, in food production and agriculture, in communication and space and in many other critical aspects of human life. Elazar Cohen, Commissioner General of the Israel Pavilion said: “Our pavilion reflects the Israeli spirit, which has made us who we are. We are composed of various peoples and cultures. We may walk different paths but we all share today’s same great challenges. We are looking to connect our minds and solves these challenges together.”
David Knafo, Managing Director of Knafo Kilmore architects said: “The Israel pavilion offers an open space, a dune surrounded by seven gates reflecting joy and hope. The dune offers a place where imagination can create a breakthrough for the future of our planet, its ecological diversity and the preservation of human heritage. The present climate and ecological crises call for urgent mobilisation of global goodwill, new technologies, inventions and close partnerships, in order to create new horizons for the next generations. We have created a space where we hope these conversations will happen.”
The first three weeks of Expo 2020 Dubai saw visits from high level officials from both Israel and the UAE. The first week had a visit from Tamar Zandberg, the Israeli minister of Environmental Protection who discussed climate change through nature-based solutions as well as announcing the launch of an international innovation center, promoting solutions to the challenges of climate change and sustainable life in desert regions, at a press conference held at the Israel pavilion. Also in the first week, the pavilion inauguration was attended by Yoel Razvozov, the Minister of Tourism, who discussed cooperation in the tourism sector with UAE’s Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs. Additionally, the week saw the visit from Ayelet Shaked, the minister of interior during her visit to UAE where she discussed visa waivers for citizens of both countries.
During the second week, the pavilion was visited by Issawi Frej, Minister of Regional Cooperation of Israel who visited the pavilion as part of his visit to the UAE. Also in October, the pavilion saw a visit from Orit Farkash-Hacohen, Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, who visited UAE to meet Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, the Minister of State for Advanced Technology where they signed the MoU to collaborate on space missions at the leadership pavilion at the Expo. Other dignitaries who visited the pavilion include Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and ADNOC managing director and group CEO, Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed Chairman of Department of Health - Abu Dhabi, Dr Jamal Mohammed Al Kaabi, Undersecretary of Department of Health - Abu Dhabi and Matar Saeed Al Nuaimi, Director General of Abu Dhabi Public Health Center.
Expo 2020 and beyond
Post Expo 2020 Dubai, bilateral trade is projected to accelerate, with business opportunities expected as a direct fallout of; international trade exposure, maturation of moves to promote trade that is still in the pipeline such as; a free trade agreement, cooperation between various business entities, entry into the position of commercial attachés, and more. Based on the UAE's trade volume with other non-Arab countries in the region, it is likely to see an order of $5 billion plus within two to three years. This trade volume puts the United Arab Emirates in the top ten of Israel's trade partners, alongside India and France.
Ze'ev Lavie, VP, International Relations and Business Development in the International Relations Division at the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce (FICC), said: “Our main goal is to facilitate business and to create matchmaking opportunities for our members. Our members are very diverse and include industry, import, export, low-tech, high-tech, retail, wholesalers and service providers in almost all market segments. The FICC is eager to see what additional trade opportunities for both the UAE and Israel, bi-lateral and multilateral, will be created or enabled by the Expo 2020 Dubai.”
On a public level, reports have shown that 250,000 Israelis visited the UAE from the Abraham accords signing to date and the number is expected to increase further after the visa waiver agreement between the two countries has been implemented, and the ease of travel restrictions post Covid-19 has occurred.
At all levels, the relations between Israel and UAE are beneficial and fruitful, and if it proves anything, it is that peace and understanding is the key to prosperity and wealth. The learning lesson from the Abraham Accords is that working together and overcoming our differences can make all the difference in the world and that despite our differences we can still grow strong together.