Israel and the United Arab Emirates formalize their economic cooperation

Posted Jul 1, 2021 5:19pm

All smiles, Yaïr Lapid, the new Israeli foreign minister, this week led a huge seduction operation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). And vice versa. Red carpets, kosher food, everything was done to please the Israeli delegation.

For Omar Sultan Al Olama, Emirati Minister of Artificial Intelligence, “The two countries are establishing a new paradigm of cooperation across the region (and will promote) a more stable and secure region. In fact, the recent war between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip has not affected the idyll that has emerged since the Abraham Accords were signed between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi in September 2020.

A diplomat through and through, Yaïr Lapid even thanked former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is anything but his political friend, for his role in implementing these agreements. The minister also stressed: “We are not going anywhere else. The Middle East is our home. We are here to stay and we call on all countries in the region to recognize this and to come and speak to us.”

As part of this visit, Yaïr Lapid inaugurated the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Israeli Consulate in Dubai, and visited the Israeli Pavilion at Dubai World Expo 2020, which will open its doors due to the pandemicah next October. Note that Israel’s invitation to the Expo came in April 2019, well before the signing of the Abraham Accords.

Many contracts already signed

The head of Israeli diplomacy also spoke for three hours with his counterpart, Sheikh Abdallah ben Zayed Al-Nahyan. The first, who met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken two days earlier, may have convinced the second of their mutual ally’s intentions in the region.

The two men signed an economic and commercial cooperation agreement. Concretely, this new alliance will allow the UAE to get closer to the European markets and Israel to get closer to the Asian markets. An example of this cross-business ambition is the agreement between Dubai Ports Word and Israeli company DoverTower to bid for the tender to manage the Port of Haifa.

In fact, since the announcement of normalization between the two countries last summer, a number of agreements have already been concluded, be it in the fields of agriculture, medicine, universities, banking, tourism … and even the military. Thus, the drone development and manufacturing agreement recently signed between Israel Aeropsace Industries and EDGE is the first official military agreement between the two countries.

Disagreements over an oil contract

However, a deal is problematic. Signed in October 2020 between Israeli public company Europe Asia Pipeline Company (EAPC) and private Israeli-Emirati company MEDRED Land Bridge, it plans to transport Emirati oil to the Mediterranean Sea through an Israeli land pipeline without crossing the strait amid tensions with Iran an increasingly risky area.

But this agreement has not been validated by either the current or the previous Israeli government, and it is highly controversial because of the risks it poses to the environment. The UAE is said to have already announced that questioning this agreement would have diplomatic consequences.

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