By Rohit Kumar Sharma
This week marks the second anniversary of the “Abraham Accords Peace Agreement: Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations and Full Normalization Between the United Arab Emirates and The State of Israel”. Much to the excitement of its proponents and dismay of its detractors, the relationship between the two countries has grown enormously with tangible outcomes. Since a lot has already been written on the political dimension of the accords, and rightly so, the article will appraise the trajectory of technology-related developments between Israel and the UAE.
Element of technology in the accord
Even though primarily political, the importance of cooperation in science and technology is recognized as an essential element of the successful realization of the Abraham Accords. The joint declaration states, “ We [the parties] support science, art, medicine, and commerce to inspire humankind, maximize human potential and bring nations closer together”. Even the individual treaty between Israel and UAE stresses “cooperation and agreements” in innovation, science and technology, and “peaceful uses of outer space; agriculture and food security; telecommunications,” etc. The shared commitments and interests for a better future in the volatile region have largely been insulated from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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The desire for broader cooperation is not merely from upper echelons but also from the people, especially the entrepreneurs and traders eyeing untapped opportunities across various sectors of these countries. Many initiatives have also been undertaken at the non-governmental level to consolidate progress. For instance, the UAE Israel Innovation Office was formed “ with the sole purpose of assisting governmental agencies, public and private businesses conduct business between Israel and the UAE.”The initiative also facilitates investments in Israeli companies and enables access to “Israel’s most innovative and cutting edge technologies.”In response to the questions by the author, Gilad Carni, the Founder, and CEO of the initiative shared his optimism and hope about more countries joining the initiative. He also identified agritech, food security, water technologies, cybersecurity, fintech, and construction technologies as areas with enormous scope for cooperation. He also said that Israel’s exports to UAE, which were US$ 384.47 million in 2021, are set to increase exponentially following the recent free trade agreement between Israel and the UAE. Another non-profit aiming to build bridges between Israel and the UAE is UAE-IL tech zone which proclaims itself as “an exclusive and primary platform” that enables “technological, entrepreneurial, business, venture capital, and government collaborations between the UAE and Israel”.
Given the extensive digitalization undertaken by Israel and the UAE, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) will amplify the technology sharing along with facilitating joint projects. To that effect, the Israeli space company SpaceIL has signed an agreement with the UAE “to cooperate on a joint mission to the moon in 2024”. In another private initiative, OurCrowd, an Israeli venture capital platform has opened an office in Abu Dhabi for AI-related research and development. Recently, Rapyd, a global fintech, and Israeli company registered at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has plans to hire employees in Dubai across R&D, product, operations, and HR departments in the coming months. Israel has over 1500 companies in the life sciences sector encompassing digital health, medical devices, and biotechnology, providing a robust foundation to build joint projects between Israel and the UAE. Lately, Israel’s Maccabi Healthcare Services and health organizations in the UAE have signed deals for joint medical research marking another significant milestone in the Abraham Accords.
The burgeoning gaming industry in the region also offers an enormous scope in Israel-UAE relations. The gaming industry in the Middle East is already bracing for a big future and is also ripe for investments. The UAE, second in place after Saudi Arabia and has a market of $520 million, is already witnessing joint partnerships with Israeli gaming startups. Many UAE-based entrepreneurs are showing interest in collaborating with Israeli food tech startups to address the issue of food security and grow food locally instead of relying heavily on food imports.
Even though two years is not enough to gauge the strength and sustainability of ties, the developments above clearly demonstrate the steady rise in Israel-UAE relations. Both nations have realized the enormity of the scope of tech-related cooperation. They are more than willing to invest their strength and leverage technology in joint projects to solve immediate problems.
Interestingly, the active participation from the business community and other not-for-profit initiatives indicates a promising future illustrating how shared interests and objectives compel nations to circumvent contentious political issues for a larger good.
(Author is Doctoral Candidate, Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited.)