image Photo: GPO

Israel, UAE sign strategic deals

Israel and the United Arab Emirates have signed a series of major pacts since agreeing to establish formal ties in August that paved the path to economic cooperation.

While most of the pacts are in the fields of technology and agriculture, the Abu Dhabi-headquartered Al Dahra Agricultural Company and Israel’s Watergen have just forged a strategic partnership in the field of water security.

Watergen Inc. is an Israel-based global company that has developed patented technology to produce water-from-air solutions.

According to the UAE news agency WAM, “The agreement aims to build a strategic partnership between the two sides to provide water from the air and add a renewable source of clean water suitable for human and agricultural consumption.”

Al Dahra and Watergen will manufacture and distribute machinery for producing drinking and irrigation water for the region from joint headquarters in Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile, the UAE’s flydubai airline inaugurated direct passenger flights to Israel yesterday, with twice-daily fights between the UAE’s and Israel’s financial capitals – Dubai and Tel Aviv – later this month.

During a festive ceremony at the Ben Gurion International Airport, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted officials from the UAE’s biggest airline in Arabic, saying “Salam Aleikum, welcome, all of you.”

“This is a moment of history because this is the first commercial flight between Dubai and Israel, there will be many more, going both directions,” Netanyahu went on to say, adding that the occasion “is a pivotal moment because we are changing history, it’s not that we are marching forward, we’re flying with breakneck speed into a new era that is now clearly changing the Middle East, changing the future of our people, they have embraced it with unbelievable enthusiasm.”

The historic flight “now opens the way for dozens of flights a week to Dubai, to the UAE, to Bahrain and to the east; a visa exemption joins this,” said the Israeli leader, underscoring, “This means that there is a great opening here for trade, the economy and tourism that, in effect, makes for a truly new and different Middle East, a meeting between peoples as well as meeting between leaders.”

“We are crumbling the Israeli-Arab conflict and turning it into Israeli-Arab cooperation in order to produce not only a new future but also a new present,” Netanyahu stressed, saying, “the entire world is watching and understands that we are making history here, and we can all welcome this.”

The CEO of Dubai’s ATC Allied Transport Ali Khalifa Beyat responded, “We are very excited to be in Tel Aviv as a first trip, or a first flight; and I think we will be doing it on a regular basis, I hope so and let’s see what adventure we see here in the country.”

That excitement was echoed by Executive Chairman and CEO of Dubai Multi Commodities Center (DMCC) Ahmed Bi Sulayem, who said “There’s a lot for us to do here. I wanted to relax, go to the Dead Sea, but I barely have time for that, so they are keeping me busy and I will be visiting this country, probably once every month or maybe twice every month and a half, so we’ll see whenever I get a chance I’ll be here, at least every three-four weeks.”

Among Dubai businessmen who travelled aboard the flight was Consultant Eric Labiner, who said that Israel “feels like at home, I mean, there are a lot of things in common, you feel the same features, you feel the same cultural things, but it’s a different country, you don’t feel anything off place, there is no hostility, everybody are friendly and smiling and the people are very accepting, and there is a lot of curiosity from our side and their side to discover both of the cultures.”

The detente comes at a time when the aviation industry is in crisis due to ramifications the coronavirus pandemic has had on international travel. Israeli borders have been largely closed to foreign nationals since the outbreak of the pandemic, which has severely affected the tourism sector.

Israel’s national El Al airliner announced earlier in the week that it will operate 14 weekly flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai starting on 13 December. Smaller rivals Arkia and Israir say they also plan to launch round-trip routes to Dubai next month.

El Al and the UAE’s Etihad Airways have also signed a deal last week to explore deeper cooperation such as joint codesharing between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv and other destinations. Etihad plans to begin daily Abu Dhabi-Tel Aviv flights on 28 March 2021.

Another historic ceremony was held on Wednesday in the UAE, where representatives of Israel’s ZAKA Search and Rescue signed a Memorandum of Understanding with members of the organizing committee of the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference & Exhibition (DIHAD).

The two organizations agreed to collaborate on humanitarian assistance during international crises and disasters, and to provide the necessary support to those affected, regardless of color, race, gender, religion or political opinions. The two parties also announced the formal acceptance of ZAKA as an active participant in DIHAD 2021, the leading humanitarian aid and development event in the Middle East.

“We see it as a great privilege, within the implementation of the Abraham Accords, to be the first Israeli humanitarian organization to sign an agreement of cooperation with DIHAD. There is no greater expression of peace than volunteer units partnering for mutual humanitarian aid and assistance, as well as professional training in search, rescue and recovery,” said ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav, adding, “There is no greater expression of peace than volunteer units partnering for mutual humanitarian aid and assistance, as well as professional training in search, rescue and recovery.”

After thanking his new Israeli colleagues, Executive Chairman of Dihad Conference and Exhibition and the International Advisory Council (DISAB) Dr. Abdul Salam Al Madani said, “We are confident that ZAKA’s participation in DIHAD will be of great benefit due to their immense efforts and expertise in the field of humanitarian work and the training of specialized cadres in situations of disaster. We are proud of their joining the DIHAD Conference and Exhibition as the first institution participating in this humanitarian event from the State of Israel.”

Bahrain and Sudan have also agreed to normalize ties with Israel in deals brokered by the United States, in what has been promoted as a strategic Middle East shift that isolates Iran.