In a first, Israel participates in Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi

Israel’s presence at the conference signifies increased cooperation in the fields of defense and technology between Israel and the Gulf

In another debut for Israel stemming from the Abraham Accords, the country’s leading aviation manufacturer — Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) — participated in a major industry conference last week in the United Arab Emirates.

The three-day Global Aerospace Summit, held at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi and hosted by the Mubadala Investment Company, covered topics ranging from aviation and space to cybersecurity and innovation. It brought together more than 1,000 senior executives from the aerospace and defense sectors in countries around the world that are eager to foster global collaboration and partnerships.

The presence of IAI, which produces aerial and aeronautic systems for both military and civilian use, broke new ground for Israel nearly two years after it signed normalization agreements with the UAE and several other Arab nations.

“What is important is that we are in the UAE and this summit is a semi-historical event for us because we are attending it for the first time ever,” Sharon Biton, IAI’s vice president of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, told The Circuit.

Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi (Courtesy)

The summit, now in its sixth edition, also welcomed 120 expert speakers that engaged the audience with more than 30 hours of panel discussions and workshops aiming to help shape the future of the industry. 

IAI was one of the sponsors for the Global Aerospace Summit. With 15,000 employees, including 6,000 engineers, the company, according to Biton, is the largest high-tech firm in the Middle East. A leader in both the defense and commercial markets delivering state-of-the-art technologies in air, space, naval, cyber and homeland defense, IAI is fully owned by the Israeli government. It designs, produces, develops and maintains civil aircraft, drones, fighter aircraft, missile, avionics and space-based systems. 

In 2021, IAI reported annual sales of approximately $4.5 billion with an order backlog of $13.4 billion. 

“The UAE is a hub for the Arab world in general, and the Abraham Accords gave us a big boost so that we as Israelis are now able to come to all kinds of places [in the UAE] and we get licenses to market in all kinds of places,” Biton said. “The UAE as a business hub symbolizes success for the region.”

Since Israel signed the Abraham Accords at the White House in September 2020 with the UAE and Bahrain, it has rewritten the rules of Middle East business after being shunned by most of the Arab world following its establishment in 1948. Among other significant developments in the past two years have been the first direct flights to the Gulf states from Israel and invitations for Israel to participate in the Dubai Expo and the World Cup soccer championship matches in Qatar later this year.

While IAI was the only Israeli company with a physical booth at the summit, several other Israeli individuals from the industry were present and participated in various panels, including one on “Cybersecurity in the Aerospace Sector,” which examined the most significant cyber security challenges facing the aerospace sector. It was led by Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, the head of cyber security for the UAE government, with speakers including Yigal Unna, former director general of the Israel National Cyber Directorate, and IAI’s Esti Peshin, the company’s vice president and general manager of its cyber division. 

In the talk, Peshin highlighted the need for cyber security solutions for commercial aviation.

In a panel on R&D investments, Eytan Eshel, IAI’s chief technology officer, stressed the company’s work as a bridge.  “IAI’s Innovation Center is a prime example of bringing together startups and the defense ecosystem to develop new, unique solutions,” he said. “We invest in the future by investing in innovation.”

Jacob Rozmann, vice president and general manager of Lahav Aerostructures in IAI’s Aviation Group, emphasized the importance of forging regional ties between Israel and the region., “Regional cooperation for transforming supply chains will result in quicker shipment, lower costs and a stronger industry network,” Rozmann said.

Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi (Courtesy)

Irit Fried, who is in charge of education programming in IAI’s Space Division, said teaching young people about opportunities beyond earth’s orbit is critical. “Our mentorship programs share knowledge and passion with students and inspire future commitment to space.” 

Over the last few years, IAI has expanded its business activities in the UAE. In November 2021, Abu Dhabi-based EDGE, the region’s leading technology company for defense, signed a memorandum of understanding with IAI during a ceremony at the 2021 Dubai Airshow to establish a maintenance center for a selection of IAI’s systems in the UAE. 

“This summit is about meeting people,” Biton said, “and it is about bringing into action our slogan, which states ‘Together we have a Brighter Future.’ We are aiming for a mutual future that must be brighter and that must talk about not only providing Israel with solutions but also cooperation.”

The summit, added Biton, was “a tremendous success with lots of traffic of very important people that led to very important meetings, which led to interesting opportunities. We felt a warm welcome from the Emiratis as individuals representing IAI and as ambassadors of the State of Israel — emotionally and business-wise.”

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