‘It’s Like Falling in Love’: Israeli Entrepreneurs Welcomed in Dubai


DUBAI — For years, Israeli entrepreneurs slipped out and in of the United Arab Emirates incognito, touring on second passports or doing enterprise by way of third events.So when greater than two dozen Israeli high-tech executives turned up in Dubai not too long ago, it was laborious to overlook them. Chatting away in Hebrew, they traipsed throughout the marbled expanses of the Dubai Mall and as much as the V.I.P. commentary deck atop the enduring Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest constructing.It had been lower than six weeks because the Emirates and Bahrain, one other Gulf Arab nation, signed agreements to normalize relations with Israel and open up embassies. However this high-profile delegation of Israeli innovators was making a conspicuous entrance even earlier than direct flights and different formal protocols had been established.Their go to was an early outgrowth of a courtship between two sides which were adversaries — no less than publicly — for many years. However the pace with which the once-covert relationship burst into the open stunned even veteran insiders: The rancor of greater than seven many years of Arab-Israeli battle appeared to soften away in a matter of days.When the Israeli executives delivered their pitches to main buyers from Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital, in an opulent resort ballroom late final month, the 2 sides clicked. The Emiratis sat attentively at spherical tables in gleaming white robes and headdresses, listening to displays about cybersecurity and synthetic intelligence and mingling throughout breaks.To the amazement of the Israelis, the Emiratis appeared most thinking about a presentation by Taly Nechushtan, the chief govt of Innovopro, a meals tech firm that extracts a plant-based protein from chickpeas.“Who’d have thought?” Ms. Nechushtan stated afterward, amused to have precipitated such a stir with a regional staple that’s the important ingredient of hummus. However the Israelis had arrived at a second when the coronavirus pandemic had disrupted commerce and uncovered one vulnerability of the United Arab Emirates: It imports as much as 90 p.c of its meals.“I feel we had been all hungry,” quipped Abubaker Seddiq Al Khoori, the chief govt of funding home Abu Dhabi Capital Group, including that the vegan meals sector match properly together with his group’s funding technique.The Emirati buyers additionally confirmed eager curiosity in a sensor introduced by Yehonatan Ben Hamozeg, the founding father of Agrint, an agriculture intelligence firm. The sensor “listens” to palm bushes and permits early detection of weevils that may ultimately destroy the bushes from the within.The United Arab Emirates has greater than 40 million date palms, a couple of third of the world’s complete. In a promising signal of future cooperation, a possible consumer invited Mr. Ben Hamozeg, whose sensor has been beneath testing for a 12 months within the Emirates by way of an American subsidiary, to go to his non-public farm.One other of the Emirati buyers, Mohamed Mandeel, the chief working officer of Abu Dhabi’s Royal Strategic Companions group, stated he felt a way of kinship with the Israelis. He recounted how he had taken a DNA check and located a match for his uncommon Babylonian gene in Tel Aviv.“If we put aside the spiritual ideologies and 70 years fueled by battle, wars and the media, we find yourself with human beings,” he stated in an interview. “We share the identical meals, the identical DNA, the identical look,” he added, describing the Israelis as “cousins.”Dazzled by the skyscrapers of Dubai rising up, Las Vegas-like, from the desert and warmed by the pleasant embrace, the Israelis stated the encounter felt like a dream come true, not like any they’d skilled within the Arab world earlier than.Erel Margalit, the Israeli enterprise capitalist and former lawmaker who led the delegation, was invited to the studios of the government-owned Dubai TV to look as a visitor on “Message for Peace,” a program aired in Arabic and English, and anchored by Youssef Abdulbari, a well-liked presenter. It was filmed in opposition to a panoramic backdrop of the Dubai and Tel Aviv skylines.Mr. Abdulbari stated off-camera that it was the primary time they’d hosted an Israeli.“You may say it’s like falling in love,” Mr. Abdulbari stated, describing the excitement within the studios and the intriguing sense of novelty.Talking on tv in visionary phrases, Mr. Margalit stated that after London, Paris and New York, the place Israeli entrepreneurs most longed to achieve was their very own area.“We hope to have the ability to do collectively one thing that’s grand,” he added.Mr. Margalit, the founder and chairman of J.V.P., a Jerusalem-based enterprise capital fund, had chartered a personal airplane from Tel Aviv to Dubai and stuffed it with businesspeople and reporters for the four-day go to.His entourage included executives from 13 of the fund’s hottest portfolio firms, most of whom had been visiting Dubai for the primary time. Some had been veterans of elite intelligence and technological items within the Israeli navy.On the flight over, he described the Emirates as a possible gateway to huge new markets with billions of individuals. Past the potential for funding of Emirati oil riches in Israeli firms, he envisaged a deeper partnership of Israel’s cutting-edge know-how with the Emiratis’ data and attain based mostly on an extended historical past of doing enterprise from the Center East to Africa and South Asia.As soon as they arrived, it rapidly turned obvious that the Israeli delegation and the Emiratis had been well-matched when it comes to ambition and enterprise.A welcome letter slipped beneath the resort room doorways of the Israeli company bore the Hebrew greeting “Shalom aleichem.” Signed by the native chairman of the resort’s possession, it additionally invited them to be in contact to discover enterprise alternatives collectively.In distinction to Israel’s decades-old “chilly peace” with Egypt and Jordan, this relationship felt totally different. With these nations, few enterprise connections have been made, and the Israeli vacationers who do enterprise over are cautious of talking Hebrew in public.One massive distinction is that the Israelis and Emiratis by no means fought a warfare, so the connection comes with out the emotional baggage of defeat and bloodshed.The under-the-radar ties grew over many years out of a burgeoning alliance of Israel and the Gulf Arab states in opposition to their widespread enemy, Iran. A lot has been completed because the normalization offers had been inked, within the closing weeks main as much as the U.S. election as President Trump amped up stress to notch just a few closing overseas coverage achievements.Israeli and Emirati officers have already exchanged visits and signed agreements for the safety of investments, civil aviation and reciprocal visa exemptions to assist enterprise and tourism.David Meidan, a former senior official of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence company, first visited the Emirates together with his boss in 2005. He has since turned to doing enterprise there, and joined the J.V.P. delegation. Mr. Margalit credited him with serving to to pave the best way for the newcomers.“For me, that is closing a circle,” Mr. Meidan stated.J.V.P. delegates additionally met with authorities ministers, though the one such gathering to be publicized was with the minister of state for meals safety.Among the Israeli executives had been whisked off for discreet conferences with sheikhs over late-night lamb dinners, on boats to island mansions or in jeeps on desert romps. However there have been no prompt offers to be made: The Emiratis are recognized to be cautious in enterprise, and one Israeli firm had already been beneath assessment there for 18 months.The Emiratis additionally took safety precautions, with younger plainclothes officers discreetly following the Israelis all through the go to. The safety-minded Israelis remarked about how protected they felt, even when strolling alone within the alleys of Dubai’s gold and spice markets emptied of vacationers by the pandemic.Retailers from Afghanistan and elsewhere greeted the guests with enthusiasm after inquiring about the place they had been from.“Come, we want you!” urged one trinket vendor, volunteering that he was from Iran, simply throughout the waters of the Gulf.The symbolism was not misplaced on Dror Liwer, a senior Israeli govt at Coronet, an organization that provides cyberdefense based mostly on synthetic intelligence. His father, he stated, had traded in arms with Iran earlier than the Islamic Revolution of 1979.“Now I’m right here as a result of my enemy’s enemy is a buddy,” he stated.


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