The Weekly Circuit
👋 Good Monday morning in the Middle East!
Presidents, princes and business chieftains are gathering in Saudi Arabia this week for the annual economic conference known as “Davos in the Desert.” Among the headliners at the three-day event in Riyadh are JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon and Jared Kushner, the former White House adviser who runs a private equity fund that has attracted Saudi investment. No-shows include senior officials from the Biden administration, which has promised consequences for the move led by Saudi Arabia and Russia to cut oil supplies from OPEC+ countries.
Previous conferences took place under the shadow of the 2018 killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, which the CIA said was approved by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That stigma has diminished since U.S. President Joe Biden visited the kingdom in July. Organizers expect some 6,000 participants to attend the conference at the plush Ritz-Carlton Hotel and adjoining convention center.
While Saudi Arabia has resisted invitations to join the 2020 Abraham Accords and normalize relations with Israel, considerable business activity is going on between the two countries, Israel’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Amir Hayek, said in an interview with The Circuit’s Jonathan Ferziger. By locating in the UAE and joining with a local partner, Israeli companies can transform themselves into Emirati businesses and operate almost everywhere in the Arab world, Hayek said.
Working to expand the normalization agreements to other Arab and Muslim countries, meanwhile, is the N7 Initiative undertaken by the Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank and the Jeffrey M. Talpins Foundation, which will organize several high-level conferences in the coming year to bring Israeli and Arab countries together, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
From Jerusalem comes news that Israel will build an $18 million museum in honor of Albert Einstein that will house the Nobel Prize-winning physicist’s writings and archives. That’s below in the Circuit Culture column, which also follows “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah’s appearance this week at the Abu Dhabi Culture Summit.
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UAE unlocks more of Gulf to Israeli companies, envoy says
A year after beginning his posting as Israel’s ambassador to the UAE, Amir Hayek has a new office, a track record for boosting trade and a view that the tiny Gulf country is an ideal perch for Israeli companies to do business throughout the Arab world. “You would like to sell to the Saudi market, to the Qatari market, to the Indonesian market? You can do it easily,” Hayek told The Circuit’s Jonathan Ferziger in an interview last week at the Israeli Embassy’s sprawling new location inside an office tower in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi.
Why not?: In order for Israelis to penetrate markets that are still closed to them, Hayek said, they must work with an Emirati partner, register as an Emirati company and establish an office or manufacturing site inside the country. “Why not? That’s the way of doing business today.”
Saudi presence: The 58-year-old ambassador spoke days before Saudi Arabia hosts its sixth Future Investment Initiative conference, a gathering of 6,000 investors, business executives and government policymakers that is often referred to as “Davos in the Desert.” Israeli hopes that the kingdom might join the 2020 Abraham Accords that were signed by the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have receded, though some Israeli companies are reportedly operating in Saudi Arabia with third-country registrations. Hayek’s advice to Israeli executives doing business there, however, is not to discuss it publicly. “As much as you’ll talk less, you’ll do better,” he said.
Getting acquainted: Hayek describes a winnowing-out process since the initial enthusiasm that followed the normalization agreements and brought a torrent of Israeli executives fishing for opportunities in the UAE and nearby Bahrain. “On day one, everybody came here and thought they could do business,” Hayek said. “But the Emiratis learned the Israelis and the Israelis learned the Emiratis.”
Read the full story here:
High-level Mideast conferences to connect Israelis, six Arab nations and advance normalization
More than two years after the signing of the Abraham Accords, collaboration between Israel and its new Arab partners has flourished. A new series of high-level conferences that will convene government officials, NGOs and private sector leaders in the “N7” — Israel and the Arab nations with which it has normalized ties — intends to formalize that cooperation and lay the groundwork for enhanced regional partnerships, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Cornerstone for cooperation: The conferences will serve as the cornerstone of the newly expanded N7 Initiative, a regional program that intends to speed up cooperation between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, the organizers said. It will officially launch on Tuesday, when Israeli President Isaac Herzog delivers an address about his vision for Israeli-Arab normalization at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. The initiative grew out of the October 2021 N7 Conference in Abu Dhabi, the first-ever multilateral meeting between senior representatives of Israel and all of its Arab partners. The initiative will be operated by the Atlantic Council think tank and principally supported by the Jeffrey M. Talpins Foundation, who together organized last year’s conference. Dan Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel and a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council, is coordinating the program.
Negev Forum: The new N7 Initiative intends to offer a faster-moving avenue, free of government red tape, for officials and experts from each country to meet and workshop ideas. In March, U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken presided over the Negev Forum, which brought together the foreign ministers from Israel, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. In June, after the ministers announced that the forum would become a permanent convening, a steering committee met in Bahrain to create six working groups, each of which will focus on a different area, such as tourism or regional security. But the working groups have not yet met.
Best thinkers: “The goal is to accelerate and deepen the work that’s being done through the new Negev Forum framework, ensuring that all the governments involved have access to all the best thinkers from their countries and others,” said William F. Wechsler, who directs the Atlantic Council’s Middle East programs and its Rafik Hariri Center.
Gaza Gas: The Palestinian Authority reportedly renewed talks with Israel and Egypt on long-delayed plans to develop a Mediterranean gas field off the coast of the Gaza Strip.
Green Islamic Bonds: Dubai Islamic Bank will finance renewable energy, wastewater management and other environmental projects by issuing “green” Islamic bonds and loans.
European Properties: London-based M7 Real Estate opened an office in Dubai to tap into strong interest in buying property in Europe among Middle East investors.
Cutting Staff: Israel’s Orcam, a company founded by Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua that makes products to assist blind people, announced plans to lay off 16% of its staff.
Cats & Dogs: Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Airlines boosted the price for passengers to sit with their pets, increasing the charge to $1,500 per dog or cat, up from $200. The fare can also be paid with 215,000 frequent flyer points for an economy seat.
Cyber Buyer: Israeli-founded Cybereason, a $2.5 billion computer security company based in Boston with investors that include Alphabet and Softbank, hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. to find a buyer after scrapping an IPO, according to The Information.
Moroccan Charge: Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris said he would like to invest as much as $100 million into tech ventures in Morocco, expressing interest in charging stations for electric cars.
Piccadilly Purchase: Israel’s Fattal hotel chain bought London’s Dilly Hotel in Piccadilly Circus for about $102 million and plans to invest another $90 million on renovations.
Mapping IPO: Abu Dhabi-based geospatial intelligence company Bayanat expects to raise about $171 million from an IPO next week.
Cider Security: California-based Palo Alto Networks is reportedly in talks to buy Israel’s Cybersecurity startup Cider Security for an estimated $200 million.
On the Circuit
Antonoaldo Neves was named CEO of Emirates airlines after the carrier’s ownership was transferred to the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund ADQ.
David Feldman, a former investor at Jerusalem Venture Partners, was hired by Boston-based Flint Capital to represent its Israel office.
Mukesh Ambani, India’s second-richest man, bought a home on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah island for $168 million, the highest price ever paid for a residential property in the emirate.
Ahead on the Circuit
Oct. 25-27, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Future Investment Initiative. Conference bringing together CEOs, policymakers, investors to discuss the future of international investment and the global economy. Ritz-Carlton Hotel and King Abdulaziz International Conference Center.
Oct. 25, Online: The UAE-Israel Business Council hosts webinar focused on health innovation and collaboration between Israel and the UAE. 8 a.m. Eastern, 3 p.m. Israel, 4 p.m. UAE.
Oct. 31-Nov. 3, Abu Dhabi, UAE: ADIPEC 2022: Energy conference brings together industry executives and international policy makers. Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
Nov. 6-18, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt: United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27). Heads of state from 90 countries expected at event to chart global efforts at protecting the environment. Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre.
Nov. 9-10, Bahrain: Bahrain International Air Show. Exhibition with 140 companies expected from aviation, defense, space and logistics industries. Sakhir Air Base.
Nov. 17-18, Abu Dhabi, UAE: The Milken Institute Middle East and Africa Summit. Experts gather to ponder the future of the region in the realms of business and geopolitics. Rosewood Hotel.
Einstein Shrine: Israel plans to build an $18 million museum dedicated to the memory and scientific work of Albert Einstein. The institution will house the Nobel Prize-winning Jewish physicist’s archives and personal writings that were bequeathed to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem upon his death in 1955. The new museum will feature exhibits on Einstein’s life and serve as a center for scholarly research and science education.
Trevor plays Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Culture Summit kicked off on Sunday with “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah discussing in an onstage interview his plans for after leaving the program later this year, saying “I’m gonna breathe.” Also scheduled to appear during the three-day event are renowned architect Frank Gehry, robot artist Ai-Da and a lineup of musicians, actors, producers and government officials.