In a sign of growing ties with the UAE, the first official advance delegation from the United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Ministry visited the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation last week to prepare for the opening of the Emirates’ Embassy in Israel as early as this coming April, the Center noted in a statement.
The UAE and Israel officially normalized relations through the US-brokered Abraham Accords last September. Since then some 130,000 Israelis have gone to Dubai. An airport closure in Israel in January has barred most trips abroad, but many Israeli organizations and companies are eager to meet partners from the Gulf.
Last year the Peres Center sent a delegation to the UAE. The UAE delegation visited the Peres Center following the recent appointment of its new ambassador, Mohammed Mahmoud al-Khaja.
“The Emirati delegation asked to visit the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, in order to learn about the Center’s work in promoting and advancing both innovation and regional cooperation and to lay the foundations for collaborative work in the near future,” the Center said in a statement.
The delegation took a tour of the Center and met with Director-General Efrat Duvdevani, who talked about the significance of Israel’s start-up ecosystem.
“President Shimon Peres would have been delighted at your visit. I believe he would have viewed it as the practical realization of his vision for a new Middle East,” she said, emphasizing “technologies, products and developments at the forefront of Israeli innovation. Duvdevani also outlined the Center’s activities and projects which promote coexistence within Israel and between Israel and its neighbors,” the statement said. During their tour, the delegation visited Peres’s office when he was president.
The visit is an important next step in UAE-Israel ties and is part of the multi-layered approach. Both countries share various regional interests, and both are start-up and innovation hubs.
There is emerging interest in food and financial technology that spans numerous projects, from diamonds to agriculture. Israelis attended GITEX last year and are expected to attend GISEC this year, two important technology conferences.
The airport closure has prevented Israelis from attending Gulfood and also the IDEX exhibition. However, much is expected to change as visa-free travel will begin in July and the UAE ambassador will arrive. Israel’s head of mission, Ambassador Eitan Na’eh, is already in Abu Dhabi. Many new initiatives are also beginning, including Zoom calls and virtual events in the absence of air travel.
Peres, one of Israel’s champions of innovations and a key political leader from Israel’s founding to his death in 2016, founded the Peres Center in 1996. It is one of Israel’s leading non-profit NGOs, developing and implementing cutting-edge programs to promote peace and innovation through Sports, Cultivation of Leadership and Entrepreneurship, Health, Business, Innovation, Technology and Environment, according to a statement from the organization.
The statement adds that programs “serve hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries of all ages, religions, and genders, and are implemented with a network of local, regional, and international partners. The Peres Center also houses the Israeli Innovation Center in Jaffa, which showcases Israeli innovation past, present and future.”