Heads of Israel’s 2 largest banks to lead business delegations to UAE

Banking executives from Hapoalim and Leumi, as well as Israeli business leaders, to meet with officials from government and financial sectors in Abu Dhabi and Dubai this week

Two Emiratis wearing face masks due to the coronavirus pandemic talk on the floor of the Dubai Financial Market in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, July 7, 2020 (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
Two Emiratis wearing face masks due to the coronavirus pandemic talk on the floor of the Dubai Financial Market in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, July 7, 2020 (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

The heads of Israel’s two largest banks will lead separate delegations to the United Arab Emirates this month after a formal agreement on banking and finance was signed by the two countries last week, the Reuters news agency reported on Sunday.

A delegation led by Bank Hapoalim will depart Israel on Tuesday for a trip with stops in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai for meetings with government officials as well as counterparts from the UAE’s banking sector.

Hapoalim CEO Dov Kotler told the news agency it was “a unique opportunity to establish economic relations and cooperation between our countries and their financial systems, which will yield economic growth for both parties.”

The statement added that there was an “immediate bilateral desire” for strong economic ties to be established between the two nations.

View of the Bank Hapoalim offices in the center of Tel Aviv, August 04, 2015 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The Globes financial newspaper reported that the delegation would examine joint lending ventures for projects such as desalination facilities and solar energy.

The second delegation from Israel is to be headed by Bank Leumi CEO Hanan Friedman and chairman Samer Haj Yehia and will start on September 14.

According to Globes, the second delegation will include around 20 senior executives from Israeli businesses as well as from the bank.

Chairman of the board of directors of Bank Leumi, Samer Haj Yehia (courtesy)

The bank told the outlet it was hoped the visit would include the signing of agreements between Leumi and Emirati financial institutions.

First Abu Dhabi Bank, the UAE’s largest lender, said last week it would open discussions with Hapoalim and Leumi.

Last week, Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a first formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) on banking and finance, including preventing terror financing.

According to the MOU, Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi will form a joint committee to promote cooperation in finance and investments. That will entail removing financial obstacles currently preventing mutual investment between the countries, and advancing joint investments in the capital market. The countries will also discuss promoting cooperation in banking and payment regulation.

A number of Israeli businesses have expressed an interest in operations in the UAE, including the shoe chain Scoop, which has signed deals that will lead to the opening of five stores, the financial daily Calcalist reported Thursday.

Israel and the UAE announced on August 13 that they were establishing full diplomatic relations, in a US-brokered deal that required Israel to suspend its plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

The UAE is just the third Arab country to agree to establish official relations with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan. Israeli and American officials have expressed hope that other Arab countries will soon follow suit, with relations based on mutual commercial and security interests, and shared enmity toward Iran.

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