Israel signs trade agreement with UAE, its largest with any Arab country

Israeli national flags fly alongside the national flags of the United Arab Emirates on the side of a road in Netanya, Israel, on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020.

Kobi Wolf | Bloomberg | Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday signed a multi-billion dollar free trade agreement, the latest product of the two countries’ historic normalization agreement in 2020 known as the Abraham Accords.

With a stated goal of increasing annual bilateral trade to more than $ 10 billion over the next five years, the trade agreement is the largest ever between Israel and each Arab country. It accounts for 96% of trade between the two countries in the Middle East, which reached $ 885 million last year, according to the Israeli Minister of Economy.

To illustrate the sharp speed and extent of trade between the UAE and Israel that has taken place since the two established official relations in August of 2020, that bilateral figure is more than twice the volume of Israel’s trade with Egypt in 2021, that was $ 330 million – and Israel and Egypt have had a peace agreement in place since 1979.

Israeli Minister of Economy and Industry Orna Barbivai and his counterpart, UAE Minister of Economy Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, signed the deal in Dubai after months of negotiations.

The signing opened “a new chapter in the history of the Middle East,” Emirati Trade Minister Thani Al Zeyoudi wrote on Twitter. “Our agreement will accelerate growth, create jobs and lead to a new era of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.”

For Jon Medved, CEO of the crowdfunding platform OurCrowd and venture capitalist in Israel’s tech scene, trust between the two countries is the key to seeing more investment.

“Trust is not something you can build in a month or two, but I think there is tremendous goodwill,” Medved told Dan Murphy of CNBC prior to signing the deal. His firm has already invested in the UAE, hired employees in the Gulf and obtained regulatory status from Abu Dhabi Global Market, a free zone of the UAE.

“While I think trust is not something that you snap your fingers at and it happens right away, I think the steps are being taken at a political level and a human level that create trust and this will lead to extraordinary business opportunities,” he said. Medved.

The signing of the deal came amid renewed violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

On Monday, thousands of Israeli nationalists surrounded the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam, chanting anti-Muslim slurs, with some physically attacking Palestinians and a few arrested for spraying a Palestinian journalist with tear gas. The protesters had gathered for the commemoration of Israel’s occupation of the Old City of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War.

The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday condemned in a statement what it described as the “storm” of the Al-Aqsa connection by “extremist colonists under the protection of Israeli troops.” It also demanded that the Israeli authorities “take responsibility for reducing escalation and ending all attacks and practices that lead to the continuation of tensions.”

Other cities and towns on the West Bank also saw violence and attacks on homes in Palestinian neighborhoods by Israeli groups. More than 160 Palestinians were injured, with some of them hit by live bullets after staging a counter-protest, according to the Palestinian Red Half.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett condemned extremist behavior and promised that anyone involved would be arrested.

On Monday, media outlets invited to sign the trade agreement were told they could no longer attend, Reuters reported, noting that no reason had been given for the sudden change.

Al Aqsa is the Old City of majority Arab East Jerusalem, which has been annexed by Israel since 1967 but is not recognized internationally. Israel’s occupation of Palestine is classified by the United Nations as a violation of international law.

The growing economic relationship between Israel and the UAE, a Muslim country that officially supports the Palestinian state, has so far remained largely unaffected by the political differences between the countries over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


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