One year of Abraham Accords: UAE a significant partner, says Israel's Head of Mission

Ryan Lim
Ryan Lim

Abu Dhabi - The two countries' relationship stems from common interests, said the Embassy's Charge d'affaires Eitan Na'eh.


Rasha Abu Baker

Published: Thu 12 Aug 2021, 1:52 PM

Last updated: Sat 14 Aug 2021, 7:36 PM

Eitan Na'eh, Charge d'affaires of the Embassy of Israel to the UAE, said the two countries have been building a relationship based on taking action that stems from common interests, seeking ways to build a better future and finding solutions on issues facing the region and the world.

Speaking to Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview ahead of the first anniversary of the announcement of the Abraham Accords, Na'eh said: "The UAE is a very significant partner to Israel. It is significant because there is high synergy. The UAE is one of, if not the most developed Arab country, certainly in the region. We find wherever we go and whenever we talk to our colleagues [in the UAE] that in almost every issue, we find very high synergy, and things simply connect."

"When we connect people, we find a lot in common," he said with optimism.

Tackling similar challenges

Since the signing of the Accords last year, organisations in both countries have signed multiple partnership agreements in various sectors, including education, food and water security, technology and medical research.

The Charge d'affaires noted that the endless avenues for cooperation will bolster economic growth in both countries, with Israel-UAE bilateral trade already reaching over AED2.48 billion (US$675.22 million), in the ten months since the signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2020.

Some of the issues that are most likely to emerge as close areas of cooperation are those that both countries are battling with and are challenges that they are facing, the Israeli diplomat said.

"We are both located in the Middle East, so it's climatic, desert and semi-desert in our case," he said. "Agriculture and food security obviously is an issue we have battled with…and it is an issue that the UAE is certainly dealing with."

One avenue for cooperation in the international arena, Na'eh noted, is to tackle issues that are important for both countries like climate change, "as both are affected by it," he added. In addition, medicine, AI and technology are all major areas for mutual exploration.

"I find this country is very keen to develop technology and become a technological hub. I think we have quite a bit we can do together - everything from earth to space."

He foresees much cooperation in the areas of research and development as well as in energy. "Our goals in terms of desalinated water and alternative energy are similar. We are similar-sized countries. These are the fields that we will see a lot of cooperation in," added Na'eh.

A prime example of early cooperation is demonstrated by Watergen, an Israeli based company, which recently installed a number of water-from-air machines in Abu Dhabi. The company will soon become the first Israeli production factory in the UAE, "creating water-from-air," he added.

Official visits and collaborations

Na'eh expressed his county's interest in "bringing delegations here," and hoping to receive more Emirati delegations to Israel in the future.

"We had a few ministerial visits already," he pointed out. "Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was here, and the UAE's Minister of State for Food and Water Security Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Al Mheiri visited Israel."

In July, Al Mheiri signed a strategic cooperation agreement in the vital areas of food and water security with Israel.

"One of the main pillars of the UAE's National Food Security Strategy 2051 is to increase the use of technology across its entire food value chain," Al Mheiri said during the event. "A second is to expand our international sources of food. We are excited about partnering with Israel and sharing our respective strengths in food security to mutual benefit."

Na'eh concurred, noting that "it is all part of the process, signing agreements, negotiating more agreements, finding what other agreements are necessary to provide a legal framework for relations to grow."

The Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) and the Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) are currently working on a joint programme for Artificial Intelligence Research, which will explore AI applications in domains such as healthcare, genomics and more.

Abu Dhabi's technology company Group 42 (G42) has signed Memoranda of Understanding with Rafael Advanced Defence Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, two leading Israeli technology companies, to explore collaborations in the research and development of effective solutions to combat SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 disease.

Business opportunities are endless

Since the Accords were signed, a number of representatives of Israeli companies have come to live in the UAE, Na'eh said, adding that it's an interesting development for Israelis to relocate and live in the UAE and for Emiratis to stay in Israel. He also referred to student exchanges between the two nations; currently, a handful of students are selected to start studies by year's end.

"It's only been a year, and what a year it has been - a year of Covid," he said. "In retrospect, in a short period, we achieved quite a lot."

Business opportunities are rife for both sides. The UAE recently announced 100% foreign ownership in 604 professional services. This includes companies operating consultancies, computer and internet networks.

Also, UAE companies can now invest in many lucrative businesses in Israel including technology, Na'eh explained. "I think we will see more Emirati businesses go to Israel. I think we will see more of that happen with time."

He noted that as the UAE is becoming "a hub for flights, innovation and tourism, of course it is certainly an incentive to continue to collaborate. And we have the best conditions, the best ingredients that will enable both countries to cooperate."

Technology is one of Israel's main added value "for the UAE to invest in emerging technologies, new ones and those of the future. And for scientists from both countries to sit together and think about and find solutions for the problems of tomorrow."

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