Advancing Into New Frontiers: Business Opportunities Between The UAE and IsraelJanuary 11, 2021
The formal commencement of the Abraham Accords in September 2020 signified not only a peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, but also an opening of business relations between the two nations. Though the Abraham Accords officially sealed this foundation, the groundwork toward the normalization of business dealings between the countries has been in the works for a number of years. As the business community in the region continues to adapt to this changing environment, major questions still remain about the best means and strategies for Israeli investors and companies to leverage the new opportunities available to them.
In a recent webinar I hosted with several leading veteran businessmen from different parts of the world transacting within both countries, we set out to tackle a number of these questions. During the webinar, the panelists spoke with optimism about the further opening of relations between the UAE and Israel – though all had a few observations and words of caution to share. All emphasized the need to remain respectful of preferences and culture in the UAE, and to let the business community there take the lead in many regards on the path forward.
With that said, there is no doubt that opportunities are available for those with the interest to find them and to develop the right strategy to pursue them. "The main impact is the bilateral business relationships that will be established between the UAE and Israel," said Avner Mendelson, President & CEO, Bank Leumi USA – adding that industries like clean tech, agriculture, and food & beverage are among those in which he sees the largest opportunities. The UAE also has significant access to imports and exports, which the panelists anticipated will prove valuable both for Israel and the UAE.
Additionally, as Adam Tantleff, Managing Principal of Madison Realty Capital, pointed out, business professionals in the UAE seem most interested in leveraging Israeli expertise in these key industries and potentially forming joint ventures – rather than participating purely as investors. "There’s a lot of … momentum that people want to do business together and want to access the brain trust that the Israeli economy and people bring," Tantleff said.
Ultimately, all the panelists acknowledged that more time is needed before the path forward becomes totally clear. In their work, they have found the business community in the UAE to be incredibly purposeful, with an interest in gaining deep knowledge about their partnerships and focused on long-term planning. "They need to take time to know us and understand us," said Yoel Har Even, Director of the International Division & Resource Development, Chaim Sheba Medical Center.
For Israelis with an interest in pursuing these newfound opportunities, it’s important to keep cultural norms in mind, such as the abstention of alcohol followed by many in the UAE, during meetings and other professional interactions. As business dealings can tend to be relationship-driven, it’s also critical to do your research and ask the right questions to build trust. However, on the whole, the panelists spoke positively about the potential for new business ventures in the region as a result of the Abraham Accords. The agreement certainly makes the area – and Israel’s strategy to maximize this opportunity – one to watch over the coming years.
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