Trade between UAE-Israel would exceed billion-dollar mark: UAE-Israel Business Council

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DUBAI: Hassan-Nahoum Co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council, expressed hope that trade between the two countries would exceed the billion-dollar mark in the coming year. He was speaking in a bilateral investment conference in Dubai.

The UAE in 2020 became only the third Arab country to establish full ties with Israel, under a Washington-backed deal condemned by the Palestinians.

The two sides have since announced a string of deals on investment, business cooperation and visa-free travel.

But last month, Israeli violence in Jerusalem sparked an 11-day flare-up that saw Israeli jets pound the Gaza Strip, while Palestinians retaliated by firing rockets into Israel.

"It wasn't easy," Hassan-Nahoum said of the atmosphere between Israeli business leaders and their UAE counterparts.

"I am involved in a lot of different forums of Israelis and Emiratis and there were some uncomfortable conversations, but it was important that we had those conversations," she said.

"We had very open conversations on areas of disagreements... people had a lot of questions about the (Israeli) military campaign" which involved air and mortar strikes on Gaza, she added.

"We are definitely at the beginning of this relationship... one of the most important things about having a long-lasting relationship is to build trust," Hassan-Nahoum said.

"After many years of not having this friendship I think it takes time."

The main questions centred on the "proportionality" of Israel's response to rocket attacks from Gaza, but also "about Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem, about what happened in Al-Aqsa mosque," she said.

But Hassan-Nahoum vowed to press ahead with ties that have already produced trade worth "about half a billion dollars so far".

"A few months ago it was like 300 million and I think that (there) has been a real push 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 been already in the billion dollars mark — but we will get there, inshallah, next year," she said.

This week's trade fair sought to pave the way for cooperation deals in the fields of health, renewable energy and technology.

UAE officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a further sign that the commercial relationship remains broadly on track, Israel and the UAE this week also agreed a bilateral tax treaty.

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