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

DUBAI – For years, Israeli entrepreneurs have been sneaking in and out of the United Arab Emirates, traveling on a second passport or doing business through a third party.

So when two dozen Israeli high-tech executives recently arrived in Dubai, it was hard to miss them. Chatting in Hebrew, they walked up to the marble extensions of the Dubai Mall and the VIP surveillance site above the iconic Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.

Less than six weeks after another Gulf Arab country signed the Emirates and Bahrain agreements Normalize Open relations and embassies with Israel. But this high-level delegation of Israeli inventors created a clear gateway even before direct aircraft and other formal protocols were established.

Their visit was the initial development of a friendship between the two sides that had been enemies – at least publicly – for decades. But the experience of a once-secret relationship erupting in the open surprised even seniors: the excitement of more than seven decades of Arab-Israeli conflict seemed to melt in a matter of days.

When Israeli executives handed out their pitches in a silk hotel ballroom late last month to key investors from the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi, both sides clicked. Emirates sat carefully at roundtables illuminating white suits and helmets, listening to presentations on cyber security and artificial intelligence, and attending during the break.

To the amazement of Israelis, Emirates was intrigued by a presentation by Daly Nechshtan, CEO of Innovobro, a food technology company that extracts plant-based protein from chickpeas.

“Who would have thought?” Ms. Nechshtan later took delight in creating such a stir with a regional staple of Hummus’ main ingredient. But the Israelis arrived at a moment when the corona virus epidemic had disrupted trade and exposed a vulnerability in the United Arab Emirates: it imports up to 90 percent of its food.

“I think we were all hungry,” said Abu Bakr Zedik Al Ghouri, chief executive of Abu Dhabi Capital Group, an investment house, adding that the vegetarian food sector fits in well with his group’s investment strategy.

Emirati investors were keenly interested in the sensor provided by Jonathan Ben Hamosek, the founder of the agricultural intelligence agency Acrind. The sensor “listens” to palm trees and allows early detection of moths that can destroy early trees.

The United Arab Emirates has more than 40 million coconuts, which is one-third of the world’s total. As a sure sign of future collaboration, a client Mr. Ben called Hamosek, whose sensor had been tested for a year by an American subsidiary in the Emirates, and visited his private farm.

Mohamed Mandil, CEO of Abu Dhabi’s Royal Strategic Partners Group, another Emirati investor, said he felt a sense of belonging to the Israelis. How he carried out DNA testing and found a match for his rare Babylonian gene in Tel Aviv.

“If we put aside 70 years of religious ideology and the triggers of conflict, war and the media, we end up with humans,” he said in an interview. “We share the same food, the same DNA, the same look,” he added, describing the Israelis as “relatives”.

The skyscrapers of Dubai, such as Las Vegas, rose from the desert and warmed by the friendly warmth, the Israelis said, realizing that this meeting would be a dream come true, unlike what they had experienced in the Arab world before.

Earl Markalit, an Israeli venture investor and former legislator who led the delegation, was invited to the studios of state-owned Dubai TV. To appear as a guest Famous presenter Youssef Abdulbari hosted the program “Message for Peace” which aired in Arabic and English. It was filmed against the broad backdrop of the Dubai and Tel Aviv skylines.

Mr. Abdulbari said the off-camera was the first time they had treated an Israeli.

“You could say it was like falling in love,” Mr. Abdulbari described the intriguing sense of hustle and bustle in the studios.

Speaking on television with foresight, Mr. Margaret said that after London, Paris and New York, the most desired place for Israeli entrepreneurs to reach was their own region.

“We believe we can do something tremendous together,” he said.

The founder and chairman of the Jerusalem-based venture capital fund, the JVP, Mr. Margaret chartered a private plane from Tel Aviv to Dubai and filled it with businessmen and reporters for a four-day trip.

His entourage includes executives from 13 of the fund’s hottest portfolio companies, most of whom are visiting Dubai for the first time. Some are soldiers of the elite intelligence and technical divisions in the Israeli military.

Over the air, he described Emirates as a gateway to vast new markets with billions of people. Beyond his ability to invest Emirati oil wealth in Israeli companies, he recalled the deep partnership of Israeli sophisticated technology with Emirates’ knowledge and acquisition based on a long history of trading from the Middle East to Africa and South Asia.

Upon their arrival, it became clear that the Israeli delegation and the Emirates were well-matched in terms of ambition and organization.

A welcome letter slipped under the hotel room doors of Israeli guests, congratulating the Hebrew “Shalom Alichem”. It was signed by the local head of hotel ownership, who also invited them to get in touch to explore business opportunities together.

Contrary to Israel’s decades of “cold peace” with Egypt and Jordan, this relationship felt different. With those countries, some business contacts have been made, and Israeli tourists are generally wary of speaking Hebrew.

One big difference is that the Israelis and the Emirates have never waged a war, so this relationship comes without the emotional stuff of defeat and bloodshed.

Radar relations have grown over the decades from the growing alliance against Israel and Iran, the common ally of the Gulf Arab states. In the weeks leading up to the US election, a lot has been done since the naturalization deals were made as President Trump was pressured to announce a few final foreign policy achievements.

Israeli and Emirati officials have already exchanged visits and signed agreements and agreements to protect investments, civil aviation and mutual visa exemptions.

David Meadon, a former senior executive at the Israeli spy agency Mossad, first visited Emirates in 2005 with his boss. He later returned to do business there and joined the JVP delegation. Mr. Margaret added to her pride in helping to pave the way for newcomers.

“For me, it closes a circle,” Mr. Meadon said.

JVP representatives also met with government ministers, although only the Minister of Food Security publishes such advertisements.

Some Israeli executives attended midnight lamb dinners with shakes, island mansions on boats or jeeps on desert rumps. But no immediate deals were made: Emirates is known to be cautious in business, and an Israeli company has already been under consideration there for 18 months.

The Emirates also took security precautions, and the young simple officers wisely followed the Israelis throughout the visit. Even when security-minded Israelis walk alone in the alleys of Dubai’s gold and spice markets, the epidemic has left them empty-handed by tourists.

Merchants from Afghanistan and elsewhere greeted visitors enthusiastically after inquiring about where they came from.

“Come on, we need you!” He insisted on a drink seller who volunteered to be from Iran across the waters of the Gulf.

Coronet’s senior Israeli executive Terror Lever, which provides cyber defense based on artificial intelligence, has not lost this code. He said his father had traded arms with Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“Now I’m here because my enemy’s enemy is a friend,” he said.

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