Abu Dhabi business leaders look to cement ties with Tel Aviv foray

In two days of meetings, Emiratis and Israelis engage in ‘high-profile networking’ to deepen relationships in finance, energy and technology

JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

The United Arab Emirates opened its embassy in Israel at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange building. on July 14, 2021.

TEL AVIV – Emirati bankers, oil traders and tech entrepreneurs came to downtown Tel Aviv on Tuesday, signing a series of agreements and predicting that business connections would continue to strengthen as open Israeli-Emirati relations enter their third year.

The Emiratis were welcomed at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange by Israeli business leaders eager to develop new partnerships in the United Arab Emirates and use the tiny Gulf state as a springboard to markets across the Middle East and Asia.

The two-day trip was a chance for “high-profile networking,” said Ahmed Jasim Al Zaabi, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Global Market, which organized the forum with the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. He expressed a desire to “foster stronger ties between the two nations” and said the corporate leaders with whom he was traveling saw “abundant business opportunities.”

Joining Al Zaabi in the delegation were representatives of Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund and its Mubadala Petroleum unit, which paid $1 billion last year for a 20% stake in Israel’s Tamar offshore gas field. The group also included executives from First Abu Dhabi Bank; the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, known as ADNOC; HUB71, the government-backed office park and incubator for startups; and AIQ, an artificial intelligence and cloud computing company, according to a statement. The visit followed a similar trip that an Israeli delegation made to Abu Dhabi in March.

UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja hailed the free-trade agreement signed in May between the two countries and said the pact should help “forge business ties and create ventures reaching new markets.” Officials from both countries have predicted that after five years, the pact should generate more than $10 billion a year in bilateral trade. The trip came nearly two years after the signing of the Abraham Accords on Sept. 15, 2020, at the White House, in which the UAE and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel. Morocco and Sudan followed later in the year.

While in Tel Aviv, representatives from three of the Emirati organizations signed a series of memorandums of understanding with Israeli partners. Those included a cooperation agreement between ADGM and Israel’s Start-Up Nation Central, to work together in supporting the growth of new companies in both countries.

“We think it is important to see Israeli companies present in the region,” Yariv Becher, Start-Up Nation Central’s vice president of Innovation Diplomacy, told The Circuit. “It would, first of all, for them, open not just the Gulf but also, it’s a spearhead to other markets. It would create impact over there and would really help in establishing mutual economic exchange.”

The idea, Becher said, is to promote “co-location” in Israel and the UAE. “It goes both ways. It could be Israeli venture firms that might be interested in investment opportunities in in the Gulf, but we would, of course, want to see Emirati investors looking at Israeli companies as well.”

The second agreement concluded at the conference was to increase cybersecurity literacy and was signed by the ADGM Academy and Israel’s Avnon Group Middle East. A third memorandum of understanding focused on strengthening data privacy and was signed by regulatory offices from both countries.

“We must open up the Israeli market to the Eastern Hemisphere as well,” Itai Ben Zeev, CEO of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, told the gathering. “We are dedicated to constantly increasing the number and diversity of investors in the Israeli capital market.”

After gathering on Tuesday at the stock exchange building in downtown Tel Aviv, which also houses the UAE embassy, the Emiratis met with individual Israeli companies and investors on Wednesday before returning to Abu Dhabi, the embassy said.

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