Israeli companies prep for IDEX, vaccinations continue in Gulf and Israel

UAE Mars mission, GISEC and Gulfood news, interview with Emily Neilson-Winkler and diplomatic developments with the US and region

Peace between the UAE and Israel continues to be cemented through diplomatic meetings. In New Zealand Israeli Ambassador Ran Yaakoby met with Chargé d'affaires of the United Arab Emirates Mr. Matar Ali Mansoori. These kinds of open and public meetings between the countries, even thousands of miles away, are a visible fruit of the Abraham Accords.

Overall the first weeks of February have continued the hiatus on flights because of the closure of Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport. The once, briefly, thriving sector that saw 130,000 Israelis rush to Dubai since late November 2020 slowed to a trickle. However, expectations are for a return over the summer as visa-free bureaucratic issues are worked out and vaccinations enable some movement.

Israel, the UAE and Bahrain have continued to bee world leaders in vaccinations. This has led to regional and global interest in learning from Israel’s experience. The National ran an article on February 12 looking at Israel’s success in declining Covid transmission numbers since several million Israelis received the Pfizer BioNTech jab. The challenge for Israel, as some children returned to school on February 10, was whether this can be sustained. An experimental drug has also reportedly had success agains Covid, see details here and here.

The UAE’s Mars mission succeeded on February 9. This has important regional implications for investment in space technology. Israel and the UAE are both leaders in this field, with Israel having an impressive history of satellite launches. His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan wrote that “The entry of the Hope Probe into the orbit of Mars is a significant accomplishment in our nation’s history. This achievement was made possible by the Emirati pioneers whose work will inspire future scientists and engineers for generations. We are immensely proud of them.”

Interviews

We interviewed Emily Neilson-Winkler of Cockpit Innovation about her work and Gulfood, an important exhibition happening on February 21 in Dubai.

See below for our coverage of the upcoming IDEX defense expo.

An ISDEF exhibition in Israel (Courtesy)

Israeli companies prepare for IDEX

Around forty Israeli companies, most of them in the defense and homeland security sector, are expected to attend for the first time this year’s important IDEX defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi. ISDEF, which runs the Israeli defense exhibition and is part. of Avnon Group, is running the Israeli pavilion at IDEX. It leaped on the opportunity last October and has helped facilitate the space that Israeli companies will have their booths in. All three of Israel’s defense giants, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems, are expected to attend. Only Elbit has remain quiet about what it may bring to the event. You can read some of the details about Rafael’s expectations for the event here. Rafael makes Israel’s Iron Dome and the Trophy APS system. It recently showcased its Fire Weaver system to the US Army. Rafael and IAI signed a deal with Group 42 last summer, foreshadowing the Abraham Accords.

In conversations with the companies they all expressed hope for the new relations in the Gulf. This allows Israelis to do business openly, rather than through subsidiaries. This is a game changer and could lead to major defense or security sales. Israel excels at several types of technology, such as investments in artificial intelligence applications, that mesh well with the Gulf’s drive into new technology. These have implications for defense, as well as electro-optics and using algorithms and big data to manage security threats or potential threats. For instance, in complex maritime environments the use of UAVs and keeping track of movement of goods is essential. Today’s defense systems are not about large tanks and battleships, but the ability to process data and make the right choices for security services. This also ties in to the larger picture of potential US F-35 sales to the Gulf. Israel is also looking at a buying spree of new aircraft in the US (see this Brad Bowman Brig. Gen. Jacob Nagel piece at Defense News).

A few highlights of companies that will be at IDEX: Israel’s IAI is a leader in UAVs and radar and is looking for local joint ventures, while IMCO is looking to expand beyond being an integrator of systems to sell directly to customers, while Aeronautics may bring an Orbiter 4 UAV and other members of its drone line. A complete list of Israeli companies attending can be found here. The challenge of traveling to the UAE from Israel has been frustrating for many seeking to attend. IDEX also has a naval component called NAVDEX. Look for Rafael to bring several innovations in that sector. It is worth noting Israeli companies are currently involved in putting their systems on Israel’s new Sa’ar 6 corvette that arrived last year from Germany.

Security matters more than ever to the Gulf, in part, because of increased Houthi drone attacks on neighboring Saudi Arabia. See, for instance this report. US Central Command and the White House has said it stands by Riyadh’s ability to defend itself, however the US has taken the Houthis off a terror designation list. They were only on the list since mid-January 2021.

More news: Gulfood and GISEC

Chef Elli Kriel and her pioneering kosher catering was profiled in JTA. “She has become the go-to kosher chef in the UAE at a time when Israeli tourists have begun streaming into the country.”

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani spoke by phone on Friday with the U.S. special envoy for Iran Rob Malley. Ambassador Houda Nonoo continues to tweet regularly her Shabbat greetings as she expands her online visibility.

The Media Line published a piece with Dr. Ali Al Nuaimi, chairman of the Defense Affairs, Interior and Foreign Relations Committee of the United Arab Emirates’ Federal National Council, about moving from confrontation to coexistence.

Oman is reportedly content with its current relationship with Israel, a hint that no more normalization is in the air, but that other positive relations likely are.

The Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Oceania Chamber of Commerce (IACC) is hosting an event on February 23 with Andrew Danow of JR/Duty Free and Aviv Leibovici of Buildots.

Israeli companies are looking forward to GISEC. “George Giles, a co-founder of MEA Consulting, which is playing a key role in bringing Israelis to the event, says that this is a historic moment. He describes the overall feeling of Israeli companies seeking partnerships and markets in the Gulf as a kind of ‘gold rush,’ like in the 19th century when people set off for the hills of western America to pan for gold.” Read more here. GISEC will follow a Cybertech event on April 5.

Gulfood is also beginning on February 21. Gulfood has established a position as the world's largest annual food and beverages trade show. It is split into eight specific food industry sectors, "the trade-only show is professionally managed and hosted by the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC)," a statement said. Read our coverage here. We were unable to find many Israelis intending to take part in this.

Continued efforts at regional coexistence can be seen in the US support for the tomb of Nahum project in northern Iraq. US Consul General Rob Waller visited the Tomb of Nahum, “a site rich in cultural importance to the region’s Jews, Christians and Muslims. The US has contributed $1 million to fund this project and help safeguard history, revitalize local economy, and eventually bring tourists to the area.

Outgoing Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash has been appointed as diplomatic advisor to the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, according to reports. “Minister Anwar Gargash and Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh - who will be appointed as cultural advisor to the UAE President - were awarded with the Order of Union ‘in appreciation of their diplomatic and cultural contributions over many years.’”

At the same time the important Philia Forum began in Greece on February 11 as Athens hosted the Foreign Ministers of Cyprus, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iraq, as well as the Minister of State for International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates. The French Foreign Minister participated via video link, reports note. See more details here. The UAE and Greece have become closer in recent years and in general this knits in with Israel’s new relations with the Gulf and Israel’s close ties to Greece, as well as the East Med pipeline and gas forum. Israel did not attend and it was not clear if it was invited to the Philia forum, but this may be due to diplomatic sensitivities. Jordan was also invited.

It was also reported that a deal for Israel’s Beitar Jerusalem fell through, after weeks of rumors about it.