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Largest banks in Israel, UAE sign cooperation agreement

Bank Hapoalim CEO says deal with National Bank of Dubai will allow Israeli clients direct transactions in the Emirates and other countries

Dov Kotler, CEO of Israel's Bank Hapoalim, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, September 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Dov Kotler, CEO of Israel's Bank Hapoalim, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, September 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Israel’s largest bank, Hapoalim, announced on Monday that it had signed an agreement with the biggest bank in Dubai ahead of the official establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Israel and the UAE signed a banking and finance memorandum of understanding earlier this month, paving the way for economic and business cooperation between the two countries. The two countries announced the normalization of relations on August 13.

The Gulf country of Bahrain followed the UAE and will also normalize ties with Israel, US President Donald Trump announced on Friday. The three countries will sign agreements at the White House on Tuesday.

Bank Hapoalim said in a statement that it had signed the agreement with the National Bank of Dubai last week.

Dov Kotler, Hapoalim’s CEO, led an Israeli business delegation to the UAE last week and met with top Emirati business leaders. He said in a statement Monday that the agreement would allow Israeli clients direct transactions in the UAE and other countries.

National Bank of Dubai CEO Shayne Nelson said in a statement that the agreement with Hapoalim “will open new business and trade opportunities for our clients and further enhance our leading position as a trusted banking partner to businesses across the… region.”

It said the memorandum was “part of a broader engagement between the UAE and Israel to further peace, dialogue and stability and establish cooperation to promote sustainable development.”

An Israeli business and banking delegation arrived in Dubai last Tuesday on the first such visit since the August 13 announcement of a normalization of ties between the Jewish state and the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a member.

After years of covert trade exceeding $1 billion annually by some estimates, the oil-rich Emirates and Israel, home to a thriving diamond trade, pharmaceutical companies and tech start-ups, are eager to take their ties public.

The UAE, a federation of seven desert sheikdoms dependent on petrodollars, is keen to cash in on the influx of Israeli investment and travel, particularly as the coronavirus pandemic shrinks demand for oil and slows tourism. It hopes to lure Israeli entrepreneurs to set up shop and well-to-do expatriates to purchase luxury apartments in the coastal emirate of Dubai, which is struggling to cope with the financial fallout of the virus.

In anticipation of Israeli visitors, the UAE’s Department of Culture and Tourism asked that all hotels prepare to offer certified kosher food.

Israel, the UAE and Bahrain will sign agreements to establish diplomatic relations on Tuesday at the White House, which brokered the normalization deals. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will represent Israel at the event, and the UAE and Bahrain will be represented at the signing ceremony by their foreign ministers.

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