The head of a Dubai’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said the United Arab Emirates has no issue with importing Israeli products manufactured in the West Bank, as it will help boost the Palestinian economy via workers employed in the factories.
“We are an open market in every sense of the word, and that means the broader the trade is and the more it is able to help various populations in the region, the better,” Hamad Buamim, president and CEO of the chamber, told Israel’s Globes newspaper in comments published Wednesday.
The chamber is a public non-profit organization created by royal decree in 1965 to support the business community in Dubai.
The UAE will not boycott Israeli products from the West Bank, Buamim said, adding he did not believe there is a need to make a distinction.
He noted that Israeli factories provide work for tens of thousands of Palestinians and said the hope is to assist the Palestinians economy rather than harm it.
Buamim said the same attitude will underpin hopes of UAE and Israeli cooperation for regional development and economic progress in places where it is needed, and in particular the Palestinian Authority.
“The advantages of the current [normalization] agreements and those that will come for the Palestinians are particularly great, and they have the potential to make the necessary change in the area,” Buamim said.
He expressed hope that Palestinian politicians will understand the benefits of allowing their people to join the recent diplomatic process, allowing their own economy to join in, rather than criticizing the developments.
Buamim did not specify if products from the West Bank will need to be marked as such. Last week Bahrain took back a statement made by the Gulf kingdom’s trade minister in which he said that Israeli products from the West Bank could be marked as originating in Israel. A United Nations resolution calls to make the distinction when labeling products from the territory.
The overwhelming majority of the international community considers Israel’s settlements in the West Bank to be illegal, although the US under the Trump administration changed its policy, saying it no longer viewed them as such.
Buamim revealed that in addition to the rush of Israelis who have been arriving in the UAE after the two countries normalized ties in September, there has also been a showing of Palestinian businesspeople, most of whom have existing partnerships with Israelis.
The Palestinians arrive via Jordan or other routes, Buamim said, and are taking up the mantle of economy and trade development in the place of their political leaders.
According to Buamim there are many other Arab countries taking a keen interest in what is happening between Israel and the UAE. He predicted that sooner or later they will find their own ways to join the normalization process.
Dubai-based FAM Holding signed deals this week to import wine, honey, olive oil and tahini from Israeli producers in the West Bank, Globes reported. Agreements were signed with Paradise Honey and three wineries, Tura, Tom and Arnon.
On Monday, Tura Winery, which is based in the West Bank settlement of Rechelim but proudly labels its products as being “from the Land of Israel,” announced its deal with FAM Holding.
“Now it can be revealed: We signed a special cooperation agreement on the distribution of Tura wines and [olive] oils across the UAE,” the company wrote on its Facebook page, together with several pictures of co-owner Vered Ben Sa’adon shaking hands with her new business partner at the signing ceremony in Dubai. “Straight from Rechelim in Israel to the UAE — history!”
At the signing ceremony, FAM Holding CEO Faisal Ali Mousa said, “If you would have asked me a year ago if I could dream that this could happen, I would have said no,” Globes reported.
Mousa said it was “just the start of business between the two countries.”
In September, the UAE and Bahrain signed the so-called Abraham Accords, brokered by the US, as part of normalizing ties between those two countries and Israel. Since then, Sudan has also said that it will sign an agreement with Israel.
Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly made a secret visit to Saudi Arabia allegedly aimed at securing normalization with the kingdom, but returned empty-handed.
Business relations between Israel and the UAE have rushed ahead with regularly-scheduled flights also being established, connecting Tel Aviv with Dubai.