Israeli violence led to ‘uncomfortable’ conversations between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi
- Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum said the main questions centered on the “proportionality” of Israel’s response to the rocket attacks in Gaza.
- The United Arab Emirates became the third Arab country to link with Israel in 2020, in a deal backed by Washington and condemned by the Palestinians.
- The co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council expresses the hope that trade between the UAE and Israel will surpass the billion dollar mark next year.
DUBAI: Last month’s attacks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on Palestinians led to “uncomfortable conversations” between the United Arab Emirates and Israeli trading partners, months after relations between the countries normalized, told AFP the deputy mayor of Jerusalem.
But the conversations were “open” and “everyone was very moderate and understanding,” said Fleur Hassan-Nahoum.
Speaking on the sidelines of a bilateral investment conference in Dubai, Hassan-Nahoum, co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council, also expressed hope that trade between the two countries would exceed the billion mark. dollars over the coming year.
The UAE only became the third Arab country to establish full ties with Israel in 2020, in a deal backed by Washington and condemned by the Palestinians.
Read more: Israel opens embassy in United Arab Emirates and re-establishes ties with Morocco
The two sides have since announced a series of agreements on investment, trade cooperation and visa-free travel.
But last month, Israeli violence in Jerusalem sparked an 11-day outbreak that saw Israeli planes pounding the Gaza Strip, while Palestinians retaliated by firing rockets at Israel.
“It was not easy,” Hassan-Nahoum said of the atmosphere between Israeli business leaders and their counterparts in the United Arab Emirates.
“I am involved in many different forums of Israelis and Emiratis and there have been some uncomfortable conversations, but it was important that we have these conversations,” she said.
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“We had very open conversations on the points of disagreement … people had a lot of questions about the (Israeli) military campaign” which involved airstrikes and mortar strikes on Gaza, she added.
“We are definitely at the start of this relationship (…) one of the most important things to have a lasting relationship is to build trust,” said Hassan-Nahoum.
“After many years without this friendship, I think it is taking time.”
The main questions were on the “proportionality” of Israel’s response to the rocket attacks from Gaza, but also “on Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem, on what happened in the Al-Aqsa mosque,” he said. she declared.
The violence in Gaza took place when Hamas retaliated by firing volleys of rockets at Israel after Israeli security forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque, angering Palestinian worshipers.
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It also followed weeks of clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood over the planned eviction of Palestinians from their homes in favor of Jewish settlers.
Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 260 Palestinians, including 66 children, and injured more than 1,900 people, according to the Gaza health ministry.
Rockets and other fire from Gaza killed 13 people in Israel, including an Arab-Israeli child and teenager, an Israeli soldier, an Indian and two Thai nationals, according to doctors and soldiers. Some 357 people in Israel were injured.
A truce under the aegis of Egypt has so far taken place.
Read more: UAE cabinet approves establishment of embassy in Israel
The Israeli massacre put a pause on months of warming relations, prompting the UAE to publicly criticize Israel for its actions, while some Emirati social media users have called for a boycott.
“Israel has lost the public relations campaign it waged (…) to improve its image and gain acceptance,” prominent business lawyer Habib al-Mulla said on Twitter, denouncing the “provocations” Israeli.
‘We will get there’
But Hassan-Nahoum has pledged to continue the relationship that has already produced trade worth “around half a billion dollars so far.”
“A few months ago it was like 300 million and I think there has been a real surge in the last few months,” she said, noting that this figure “would have been much higher” in the absence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think it would have passed $ 1 billion by now – but we’ll get there, inchallah, next year,” she said.
Read more: Israel-UAE deal and timeline of failed Middle East peace initiatives
This week’s fair aimed to pave the way for cooperative agreements in the fields of health, renewable energy and technology.
UAE officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As a further sign that trade relations remain on track overall, Israel and the United Arab Emirates also signed a bilateral tax treaty this week.
But a visit to Dubai by Israeli Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen to attend a travel industry forum in mid-May has been canceled.
The United Arab Emirates were the third Arab country to normalize relations with Israel, after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have since followed suit.
Read more: How the world views the ‘historic’ agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates
Abraham’s accords swept away decades of consensus that there should be no relationship with Israel until it makes peace with the Palestinians.
The Palestinians condemned the normalization agreements as “a stab in the back.”
Last month’s violence also saw Israel’s other new Arab partners publicly criticize Israeli actions.