Emirati and Israeli bosses cannot wait to do business
January 25, 2021
srael and the United Arab Emirates (uae) have maintained unofficial relations for a while, despite a half-century boycott in much of the Arab world of the Jewish state in its midst. So, too, with commercial ties. Goods moved between the two economies, but only by passing through intermediaries in third countries first. This made sense for high-margin products like technology, an Israeli forte, or diamonds, where the rigmarole could tack on a week’s delay and a surcharge of 1% for extra bank fees and insurance. Trade was pointless for most other businesses.
No longer. On January 24th Israel opened an embassy in Abu Dhabi, the uae’s capital, as part of the Abraham accords, a diplomatic deal brokered by America and signed in September. The outpost has symbolic value. It is also a beachhead for Israeli and Emirati bosses and investors keen on doing business. And there is plenty of business to be done “now that the relations between the two countries have come out into the open”, says David Meidan, a former senior spy at Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, who advises Israeli companies operating in the Arab world. Boosters talk of up to $6.5bn in annual bilateral trade—equivalent to 5% of Israel’s current total and 1% of the uae’s—within a few years, and billions in investments.