Business leaders and ambassadors across Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have hailed a record year of business deals between the two nations as they mark the first anniversary of the historic Abraham Accords.
The deal spans sectors including aviation, energy, technology, health, among others. From oil to tourism to cutting-edge technologies, the two countries are continuing to benefit from an economic dividend following the normalization agreement.
Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council, Al Arabiya English, described the Abraham Accords as “a pivotal moment, a hinge in history.”
Speaking to Al Arabiya English She stated: “From my perspective, this peace deal was the biggest and most important diplomatic achievement in the world in the past few decades.”
While for years, Israeli companies have been operating in the United Arab Emirates, Hassan-Nahoum said this was a practice often done “under the radar.”
“What the Abraham Accords have done has been to open the page. Now everyone in Israel wants to do something in the UAE – it is the economic center in the Gulf for many.”
“I get enquiries from entrepreneurs who want to sell fruit, to experts in from bananas from drone technology, to food tech companies – anything you can possible imagine – all looking to do business in the UAE since the Abraham Accords. “
“Israelis are not just seeing the UAE as a market – they see the Emirates as the springboard for east Africa, for Asia, for many places.”
On August 13, 2020, the United Arab Emirates and Israel announced that they would be establishing relations, this was followed by Bahrain and Israel on September 11, 2020.
Days later, on September 15th, the three countries signed the Abraham Accords Declaration which stated their recognition of “the importance of maintaining and strengthening peace in the Middle East and around the world based on mutual understanding and coexistence, as well as respect for human dignity and freedom, including religious freedom.” Sudan and Morocco have also since signed the peace agreement.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and political turbulence in Israel hindering some efforts for business deals, Hassan-Nahoum said so much has been achieved between the two nations in the short space of a year.
“Our hands have been tied behind our backs for a while. So just imagine how much we are going to sprint when the ties are removed.”
“By the end of 2021 I expect deals worth $1billion in trade between the two nations. With EXPO 2020 coming up in Dubai, this will only increase. This, in the future, is definitely a multi-billion dollar a year relationship.”
Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen previously suggested that annual trade between Israel and the UAE is expected to reach $4 billion in three to five years.
Israelis, said Hassan-Nahoum, are excited about what the UAE – a “candy store for innovation” – can bring to the country.
“There is a lot the UAE can teach us in terms of building and infrastructure, and digitalizing cities. We are still behind - this is what they can bring us.”
In March, the UAE announced it was setting up a $10 billion investment fund across multiple sectors in Israel, including energy, manufacturing, water, space, healthcare and agri-tech. The investment fund will support development initiatives to promote regional economic cooperation between the two countries, a statement said at the time.
Since then, numerous deals have been inked between the two nations.
In July, the UAE became the first Gulf state to open an embassy in Israel. In June Israel’s new foreign minister Yair Lapid also inaugurated its embassy in the UAE during a two-day trip to the country.
'A remarkabale year'
Asher Fredman, CEO of Gulf-Israel Green Ventures, told Al Arabiya English what the UAE and Israel have achieved in “one short year” has been “nothing short of remarkable.”
“Right away after the Abraham Accords a year ago, there was a realization of the tremendous potential of collaboration in the fields of food security, water security, clean energy and so much more,” he said. “What we have been seeing over two months alone is really the maturation of this new relationship, including the UAE’s water security minister announcing a $150 million investment into Israel alternative energy companies,” he added.
“We have gone zero to 50 rapidly in this short timeframe; we have seen tremendous potential for cooperation and sustainability and over the next few months what we will see is the realization of that potential and we shall see continue to see a number of exciting deals of cooperation relating to the field of clean energy, food security and water security.
“Despite political situations in Israel, and on the backdrop of COVID-19, together we have moved incredibly fast with bilateral deals; now we are going to see the creation of mechanisms which will both help the strategic pairing between Israel and Emirati technology and businesses which will bring investment and funding which is necessary.”
“Both countries are going to benefit from that – as will the wider region who will also want to replicate the partnerships and success which have taken place.”
“My personal highlight of the Abraham Accords has been getting to know the Emirati people, the culture of tolerance and diversity, the drive for excellence among the UAE people, and the patriotism they have.”
“Seeing all that has been accomplished in the field of sustainability and seeing all the ideas being realized in a real-world situation is remarkable.”
“This partnership will only get stronger. Over the next ten years, the UAE/Israel partnership is going to become one of the strongest forces in the world for sustainable innovation and disruptive energies.”
Ambassador Houda Nonoo, Bahrain’s former Ambassador to the US and the first and only Jewish Ambassador from an Arab country, also spoke of a year of achievements.
“The signing of the Abraham Accords will no doubt be one of the biggest Middle East milestones in our lifetime and as we celebrate its first anniversary, it is an opportunity to reflect on this auspicious time for the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the region more broadly. It is also the time to look forward to the limitless opportunities ahead of us.”
“As one of the few indigenous Jews in the Arabian Gulf, it is particularly meaningful to me. As a citizen of this region, I am filled with excitement to see the construction of a new Middle East, one focused on coexistence and prosperity.”
The ambassador extended her thanks to the leaders of Bahrain for “their leadership, vision, and courage to lead our nation proudly and boldly into the future through the signing of the Abraham Accords.”
“These Accords represent a promise that the leaders in the region have made to build a better life with security and opportunity for all of us and for future generations still to come.”
“As we embark on a new era in the Bahrain – Israel relationship, it is important to remember that at the core of this agreement is the desire to create a new Middle East, one built on peace and prosperity for all. I believe that the growing partnerships between Bahrain and Israel, will lead to sustainable peace in the region.”