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UAE embassy in Israel hosts first-of-its-kind business, innovation forum

At Jaffa event initiated by Emirati ambassador, government officials, business and industry leaders discuss economic ties

Ricky Ben-David is The Times of Israel’s Startups and Business editor and reporter.

UAE Ambassador to Israel, Mohamed Al Khaja (right) and Executive Director at Start-Up Nation Central Wendy Singer. (Eran Beeri)
UAE Ambassador to Israel, Mohamed Al Khaja (right) and Executive Director at Start-Up Nation Central Wendy Singer. (Eran Beeri)

The United Arab Emirates’ embassy in Israel hosted a first-of-its-kind business conference on Israeli technology and innovation in Jaffa on Wednesday, bringing together government officials, business leaders and entrepreneurs for discussions on promoting bi-national business ties.

The event was held jointly with Start-Up Nation Central, a non-profit organization that closely follows the Israeli tech ecosystem, and the Israeli Ministry of Economy. About 200 people attended the summit, among them members of a state-sponsored business delegation from the UAE led by Emirati Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) Ahmed Belhoul Al Falasi and Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani Al Zeyoudi.

The business forum was initiated by UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja earlier this year as the new envoy sought to foster collaboration on innovation and entrepreneurship ventures between the two countries.

“As people of the region, in order to advance our own societies and our economies, it is imperative for all actors in this room, and our counterparts to find ways to ‘lean in’ to this relationship and work together to open doors and correctly navigate and fuse together the respective strengths of our societies and economies,” said Al Khaja at the event Wednesday.

“We are proud and excited to host Israeli startups, corporations and joint ventures aiming to capitalize on the language, cultural and global connections of the dynamic Emirati marketplace, and to allow you to tap into the diverse talent pool and global business acumen of the UAE,” he added.

UAE Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs Al Falasi said: “Everywhere I look I see alignments, both in our strengths and our challenges, when it comes to small and medium businesses, startups and tourism. There are a lot of ways that we can work together and enable our respective businesses to expand from the UAE to Israel and the other way around.”

Among the attendees at the event were Israeli Minister of Tourism Yoel Razvozov, Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Economy Ron Malka, chairperson of Israeli food company Strauss Group, Ofra Strauss, the senior managing director of US investment firm Blackstone’s new Israel office, Yifat Oron, and vice-president of the international division at the Israel Innovation Authority Nili Shalev.

Israel’s Minister of Economy and Industry Orna Barbivai said the UAE delegation’s arrival in Israel this week “enables us to expose the visiting Emirati industry and business leaders to Israel’s wealth of innovation, technology, entrepreneurship, and research.”

“This conference signifies the establishment of economic ties between the two nations and Israel will continue to strengthen the business connections and partnerships with the Emiratis, recognizing their potential for aiding economic growth,” said Barbivai.

The forum participants are set to hold closed business meetings on Thursday.

Wednesday’s event came more than a year after the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords, the historic US-brokered agreement that normalized ties between Israel and the UAE, quickly followed by Bahrain and Morocco.

While Israelis have long maintained quiet commercial and security ties with the UAE, the normalization agreement was seen as a potential economic boon, with increased access to the global business and shipping hub of Dubai, on top of tourism and energy.

At an anniversary event in September, Emirati Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq Al-Marri said economic activity with Israel could reach more than $1 trillion over the next decade.

On Wednesday, Israel’s Consul-General in Dubai Ilan Sztulman Starosta said that trade between Israel and the UAE reached about $700 million since the Abraham Accords were signed. The countries have bilateral agreements in such areas as food, agriculture, healthcare, aviation, water and energy.

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