Children of Abraham reunited at last at the Israeli-Emirati business forum

Senior advisor to the US ambassador Aryeh Lightstone spoke of the pivotal significance of the Abraham Accords.

NATIONAL SECURITY Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat meets with his Emirati counterpart, Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi, August 2020 (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
NATIONAL SECURITY Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat meets with his Emirati counterpart, Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi, August 2020
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
In an era of firsts between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, a second stands out: the first ever second joint meeting of the Israeli-Emirati Forum, co-sponsored with the UAE-Israel Business Council (UIBC).
Israeli and Emirati representatives gathered on Zoom Thursday evening to discuss aspects of Israeli and Emirati business and culture, in order to foster not only peace, but friendship between the newly reconciled nations.
Aryeh Lightstone, senior advisor to the US ambassador David Friedman, was invited to address the forum, whereupon he admitted to the group that, although rarely nervous, he was experiencing butterflies thanks to the historic importance of the event.
During the historic August 31st delegation from Israel to the UAE, led, from the United States, by Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to President Trump, Lightstone moderated several of the bilateral discussions between Emirati and Israeli representatives.
Lightstone invoked Winston Churchill to describe how history is based upon hinges - oftentimes a hinge pivots the world in a new and entirely unexpected direction. Oftentimes the players are forced to respond to the pivot, such as the events of 9/11. It is a rare event when they get to create the pivot, yet that is the case with the Israel-UAE deal signed on August 13, when the world turned on a hinge for good. The moment, he said, was therefore one to savor.
And he went on to explain the significance of the deal's name - The Abraham Accords - named for a man who, firstly, was not just the father of the three great monotheistic faiths, uniting their followers in one family, but as a man acted alone to become a pivot, turning the entire world from paganism and idolatry to monotheism.
Secondly, Abraham was concerned for people, questioning how he could best fulfil his role in the world for the good of all. That, he said, was the difference between warm peace and cold peace: warm peace involved the cooperation for mutual benefit of the people of the nations.
Looking toward the long term is paramount, Lightstone said, encouraging both the UAE and Israeli delegates to look forward to where they wanted their countries to be in five-to-ten-years and beyond.
“Creating a better future will take courage, conviction and leadership, as shown by President Trump and the leaders of Israel and the United Arab Emirates,” he said, adding: “Warm peace is driven between people to people.”
It was that sense of togetherness that Jerusalem's Deputy Mayor and co-founder of the UIBC Fleur Hassan-Nachum invoked when she spoke on the work of the council. Business can be a conduit for bringing disparate groups together, she reminded the group, emphasizing that business builds trust.
Israelis and Emiratis are excited not just to do business but to practice peace, she said, adding that she had recently been quoted as saying the two countries were dating. "In that case, this is a second date," she quipped.
"We believe that real genuine peace comes from the bottom up and not just the top down," Hassan-Nachum told The Jerusalem Post following the meeting.
"My co founder Dorian Barak and I set up the UAE-Israel Business council as soon as peace and normalization was announced in order to create a living and breathing platform that can connect businesses and business leaders from the UAE and Israel to add value to each other and foster opportunity and prosperity for the entire region. We believe our council can act as a laboratory for the first warm peace in the Middle East."
The forum was set up as a people-to-people intiative, bringing together a diverse group of Israelis and Emiratis in dialogue and mutual co-operation in fields ranging from business to culture to the arts. The first zoom meeting was held shortly after the peace announcement.
Chaired by Asher Fredman, a co-founder of the UIBC and columnist at the Jerusalem Post, the meeting also heard from Thani Al Shirawi, who spoke on 'What Israelis should know about UAE business culture,' Hillel Fuld on the Israeli start-up ecosystem, and Dany Farha on the UAE start-up ecosystem.
Emphasizing the cultural connection fostered through business links, the meetings participants also heard from former Knesset member Dr Einat Wilf, who addressed the question: What is Zionism?
“People-to-people connections are the foundation for a warm peace," Fredman said. "The good-will and desire to build bridges, displayed by both Emiratis and Israelis, has been truly inspiring.”
Dorian Barak, Co-Founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council added: “The UIBC brings together Israel’s dynamic innovation ecosystem and the UAE’s unique strengths as a regional and global financial and commercial hub. Hundreds of Israeli and Emirati businesspeople have already reached out to be part of the Council.”
The Zoom meeting comes ahead of the expecting formal signing of the Abraham Accords, due to take place at the White House on September 15.