STARTUP EMISSARY

Israel creates new diplomatic post to promote its technology firms

Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the London-born deputy mayor of Jerusalem, was appointed by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen to be special envoy for innovation

ISRAEL MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen appointed Fleur Hassan-Nahoum (right) as special envoy for innovation at a ceremony in Jerusalem. She will step down next month at the end of her term as deputy mayor.

TEL AVIV, Israel – Israel, which has branded itself as a nation teeming with startups, established a new diplomatic post on Wednesday to promote its technology companies around the world.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen tapped Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, a London-born lawyer and deputy mayor of Jerusalem, to fill the job as Israel’s first special envoy for innovation. Among her first missions will be traveling at the end of November to the United Nations COP28 Climate Conference in the United Arab Emirates to help Israeli companies present technologies they’ve developed that address the world’s environmental challenges.

The UAE, Bahrain and Morocco have been a special focus for Hassan-Nahoum, 49, since the Abraham Accords, which normalized Israel’s relations with the Arab states three years ago. She co-founded the UAE-Israel Business Council to facilitate connections between investors and executives and entrepreneurs in the two countries and later helped establish the Gulf-Israel Women’s Forum.

“A lot of the work that I’ve already been doing until now has been in a framework from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which I’ve been working with for years to advance all sorts of partnerships,” Hassan-Nahoum told The Circuit. “Now I can have an official position that allows me to represent the Israeli government in this bridge-building innovation work.”

Cohen made the appointment at a brief ceremony at his office in Jerusalem, where he praised Hassan-Nahoum’s activities at City Hall and said she “worked tirelessly to strengthen the Jerusalem innovation ecosystem.” She will step down next month at the end of her term as deputy mayor.

Hassan-Nahoum, who grew up in Gibraltar, where her father was mayor and chief minister of the British territory, emigrated to Israel in 2001. She ran a nonprofit anti-poverty organization and founded a strategic communications firm in Jerusalem before winning a seat in 2016 on the City Council. As deputy mayor, Hassan-Nahoum was in charge of tourism and foreign relations, including acting as a liaison for the city after the U.S. Embassy was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2018.

Following last week’s announcement by President Joseph Biden at the G20 summit in New Delhi of a planned sea-and-rail route that would link India with Europe through the Gulf, Jordan and Israel, Hassan-Nahoum said she was optimistic about prospects for further normalization with Saudi Arabia. She said she also intends to connect Israeli companies with African countries such as Chad and Nigeria that have expressed interest.

“A lot of my work will involve the strengthening of innovation cooperation between the Abraham Accords countries,” she said, adding that, “many, many countries in Africa are approaching us and want to be part of the prosperity… in this new Middle East-Africa region.”

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