The UAE has taken the bold move of normalizing diplomatic relations with Israel, triggering a similar response from other nations across the Middle East and Africa. The potential for bilateral trade aside, the move could trigger wider social and economic cooperation.
One of 2020’s most significant diplomatic developments was the agreement in late summer for Israel and the UAE to establish formal relations. The agreement was put into writing and inked on September 15 at the White House, with the attendance of both Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and UAE Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The UAE was the third Arab country to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, following Jordan and Egypt, and its move to normalize relations has triggered new optimism for peaceful cooperation in the region—Bahrain has also since taken steps to normalize ties with Israel, as have Sudan and Morocco.
And the economic benefits could be substantial, with the normalization of ties boosting trade and investment between the two countries. The level of UAE investment in Israel could hit USD350 million a year, while Israeli exports to the UAE could be worth up to USD500 million.
Areas that offer up opportunities include aviation, via the introduction of direct flights—indeed, thousands of Israel tourists have already descended on the UAE—clean energy, including cooperation on solar energy, and more, not to mention food and water security and high technologies, underlined by plans announced by UAE-based Group 42 to set up a subsidiary in Israel to work on AI and cloud computing.
Banks in the UAE are also in talks with Israeli lenders, which could further boost bilateral trade and investment. The move also suggests a shift in the UAE’s foreign policy approach, with potential for even greater synergy across a fractured region.
In the wake of the agreement, The Business Year organized a digital roundtable, inviting Hamdan Ak Kindi Almarar, co-founder of AC Partners, and Alexandre Peterfreund, co-founder and Cantor of the Jewish Council of the Emirates, to discuss the potential impact of the accord. “The UAE and Israel have agreed to develop diplomatic relations to prevent the transition of the Palestinian land and avoid tension in the region,” commented Almarar during the event, later adding, “This collaboration will boost the tourism sector in the UAE, increase trade in technology between the two countries, and [boost] energy and other fields.”
Overall, the agreement is playing a perhaps limited but significant role in Abu Dhabi’s efforts to remain resilient in the face of external pressures such as fluctuating oil prices and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 global health emergency. Observers will now watch keenly to see how the agreement may benefit both parties moving forward.