Can Israeli-Emirati enterprise ties survive the Gaza warfare?

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IN 2020 MIDDLE EASTERN commerce was remodeled. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and some different international locations signed the Abraham Accords with Israel, normalising relations between the Jewish state and a few of its Arab neighbours. Israeli vacationers flooded into Dubai on the primary ever direct flights. Within the first eight months of 2023 Dubai welcomed nearly 230,000 travellers from Israel, 73% greater than in the identical interval final yr. These days journey businesses in Tel Aviv even provide bar-mitzvah excursions within the emirate, with pit stops at kosher eating places.

Enterprise dealings have blossomed, too. The UAE-Israel Complete Financial Partnership Settlement got here into drive in April. Official commerce between the 2 international locations is predicted to surpass $3bn this yr, from nothing in 2019. Final yr Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala, reportedly invested $100m in six venture-capital (VC) funds based mostly in Israel or centered on Israeli startups. It additionally purchased a $1bn stake in an offshore natural-gas area from NewMed Vitality of Israel. Israeli expertise corporations comparable to Liquidity Group, a fintech darling, have opened research-and-development centres within the UAE. Israeli and Emirati universities have solid analysis partnerships on issues like synthetic intelligence.

All of this progress is now in danger on account of the warfare raging between Israel and Hamas. For the reason that battle erupted, experiences one Israeli entrepreneur, many Emirati contacts have gone silent. An Israeli-American investor who splits his time between Dubai and Tel Aviv worries that even after the battle abates, Arab corporations will suppose twice about transacting with Israeli ones.

That will be unwelcome for Israel and the UAE alike. Israeli enterprise confidence was slumping even earlier than the hostilities in Gaza. Proposed reforms to weaken the supreme court docket nervous company bosses. Amid a worldwide VC winter, Israeli startups raised lower than $4bn within the first half of 2023, the bottom because the identical interval in 2018. Greater than two-fifths of Israeli corporations surveyed in late October reported that their potential backers had cancelled or delayed funding agreements. Israel’s companies may subsequently use the UAE’s deep swimming pools of capital and entry to its home market, particularly as their nation recovers from hostilities which are, in accordance with surveys, already affecting 4 in 5 of its tech corporations.

The UAE, for its half, covets Israeli know-how, which may speed up the nation’s financial diversification away from oil and assist it sustain with competitors from its greater neighbour, Saudi Arabia, itself within the throes of a modernisation drive (and, till the Gaza warfare, on the right track to forge diplomatic ties with Israel). Up to now decade non-public funding within the UAE has declined as a share of GDP. Though the federal government has put in place numerous incentives for entrepreneurs, from accelerator programmes to credit score ensures, the IMF has not too long ago pointed to the “weak expertise content material” of the Emirati economic system. Most new tech ventures find yourself trying like copycats of stale e-commerce companies. Israel, with its eager technological acumen in areas from digital expertise to water desalination and a tradition of free enterprise, has quite a bit to show the Emiratis.

The industrial logic of continued rapprochement, then, stays sound. Many businesspeople in Israel and the UAE comprehend it—and are hoping that the present pause is simply that, quite than a collapse.

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