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Reuters: The UAE-Israel Partnership Strengthens Amid Ongoing Gaza War

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A Reuters report confirmed that the UAE-Israel alliance is persisting and growing despite Tel Aviv’s ongoing war on the Gaza Strip, which has reached its eighth month, along with the horrific massacres committed against the Palestinians.

The agency stated that the war in Gaza only led to calming Israeli commercial activity with the UAE by giving it a non-public character and not stopping or reducing it.

According to Reuters, the UAE became “the most prominent Arab country in 30 years to establish official relations with Israel under an American-brokered agreement in 2020, called the Abraham Accords.”

Following the normalization agreements, Israeli entrepreneurs started traveling directly from Tel Aviv to the Gulf state, establishing new business connections and expanding previously covert relationships.

Deals announced before the war included investments in cybersecurity, financial technology, energy, and agricultural technology.

Ten Israeli officials, executives, and businessmen informed Reuters that trade relations with the influential Gulf state are still solid. However, indicating how the conflict is reducing enthusiasm, they chose not to discuss any recent agreements.

Raphael Nagel, a German-Jewish businessman residing in the UAE and leading a private business group that fosters trade relations between Israel and Abu Dhabi, noted that public enthusiasm for the agreements had diminished.

While six bankers and lawyers in the UAE said that trade relations between Israeli and Emirati companies had endured the war, but that few new deals were happening publicly.

They added that in Israel, many companies had employees who were called up for military service, which affected operations.

Reuters noted that the UAE remains the only Arab country still hosting an Israeli ambassador. Following the October 7 Hamas attack, Tel Aviv withdrew its diplomats from other Arab countries with which it has relations.

Since formalizing diplomatic relations in 2020, Israel and the UAE rapidly developed a strong economic partnership, unlike the longstanding normalization agreements with Egypt and Jordan, which did not lead to substantial trade relations. A commercial agreement was signed in 2022.

According to data from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, trade increased by 17% last year, and reaching $2.95 billion. Despite a cooling period following the war, trade was still 7% higher year-on-year in the first quarter of 2024.

But Israeli tourists, who have become frequent visitors to the UAE, no longer fill Dubai’s hotels, restaurants, and bars – although Israelis and Jews say they still feel safe in the country.

Unlike other Arab countries, there were no public demonstrations in the UAE in support of the Palestinians or against Israel.

Bruce Gurvin, an American Jewish businessman who settled in the UAE in the late 1990s, observed a trend toward greater secrecy, with October 7 being a notable factor in this shift.

Many Israelis who were already doing business in the UAE before the war said their personal and business relationships with Emiratis and other Arabs in the UAE remain unaffected. But they also say there is a demand, on both sides, not to disclose business relationships publicly.

“I think chilling is a fair word,” said Eli Fortman, co-founder of Israeli venture capital firm PICO Venture Partners. “But, on the other hand, it’s business as usual.”

Wortman believes the close ties established in the immediate period after normalization have helped maintain the business relationship with the UAE, a sentiment echoed by Israeli officials and other executives Reuters spoke to.

A representative from UAE-IL, an Israeli NGO dedicated to fostering trade relations between Israel and the UAE, mentioned that Emirati officials assured them that investments in Israel would continue despite the conflict, but requested Israelis to withhold any announcements regarding deals.

In June 2021, Michael Mirilashvili, the CEO of Watergen, an Israeli firm specializing in machines that extract drinking water from the air, finalized a trilateral agreement on water research. The deal involved Abu Dhabi-based Baynunah and Tel Aviv University, aiming to advance research in water technology.

Mirilashvili said that the partnership with Emirati counterparts remains warm and he has not noticed a difference in relations since October 7, adding, “We continue to work together.” We have very strong bonds with the people we work with there.