Israel’s Bank Leumi, UAE banks sign accords to promote business ties
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Israel’s Bank Leumi, UAE banks sign accords to promote business ties

Leumi symbolically sends each bank a money transfer of $180, or ’10 times life’ in Jewish tradition, to mark historic day of Israel and UAE cementing diplomatic relations

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Bank Leumi's chairman Samer Haj Yehia, fourth from left, High Excellency Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, fifth from left, and CEO Hanan Friedman, second from right, with UAE officials; Sept. 14, 2020 (Courtesy)
Bank Leumi's chairman Samer Haj Yehia, fourth from left, High Excellency Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, fifth from left, and CEO Hanan Friedman, second from right, with UAE officials; Sept. 14, 2020 (Courtesy)

Bank Leumi Le-Israel, one of Israel’s two largest banks, said on Tuesday it has signed two cooperation memorandums of understanding with banks in the United Arab Emirates, as Israel and the UAE were scheduled to sign later in the day the official establishment of diplomatic ties.

The chairman of Bank Leumi, Samer Haj Yehia, and Leumi’s CEO Hanan Friedman, who are visiting the UAE with a delegation of Israeli business leaders, signed the accords with First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) and the Emirates NBD of Dubai.

The accords will enable economic relations between Israel and the UAE, following the historic deal that was to be signed later on Tuesday, Bank Leumi said in a statement. The banking accords will allow the parties to work together to promote relationships with corporations and financial institutions in Israel and the UAE and jointly provide the banking platforms required for such relationships, such as interbank clearing services, interbank credit lines, trade and investment promotion, forex trading, and operations.

The investment and tech arms of Bank Leumi will also help create connections between Israeli companies and wealth funds and investors from the UAE, the statement said.

Leumi said it had ,already made a direct money transfer on Tuesday to both banks, marking the historic day with the transfer of $180 for each bank. In Jewish tradition the number 18 signifies life, so the amount transferred to each bank represents ten times life.

Until now, Israelis with business activities in the UAE needed to make payments via European banks.

FAB Bank is considered the biggest in the UAE and one of the five biggest in the Middle East with total assets valued at some $235 billion. The bank provides retail and business banking services as well as financial services.

Government-owned Bank Emirates NBD of Dubai was set up in 1963 and is one of the five biggest banks in the Middle East. It has total assets valued at some $140 billion.

During the visit the delegation met with senior government and business officials.

Haj Yehia said that the delegation’s visit was an important milestone for the Israeli economy and peace between the parties will lead to cooperation in the financial, tech, energy, water and health sectors, among others.

“We estimate that the investment of Emirati entities is likely to reach to some 10% of total investment in Israeli tech in the next few years, directly or via funds,” said Leumi’s CEO Hanan Friedman in the statement.

The accords come on the heels of those signed by Leumi rival Bank Hapoalim, which said on Monday it signed an agreement with the biggest bank in Dubai.

US President Donald Trump will host a ceremony on Tuesday at which Netanyahu will sign a full treaty with the United Arab Emirates and a declaration of peace with Bahrain, the first accords Israel has agreed with Arab states since Jordan in 1994.

Israel and the UAE announced on August 13 that they were establishing full diplomatic relations in a US-brokered deal.

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