Gold, diamonds, coffee: DMCC chair talks UAE-Israel trade opportunities

The sky is the limit in all these new connections, from coffee to gold and diamonds.

AN ISRAELI and a UAE model pose in Dubai in September. (photo credit: CHRISTOPHER PIKE/REUTERS)
AN ISRAELI and a UAE model pose in Dubai in September.
Dubai Multi Commodities Center executive chairman Ahmed Bin Sulayem is an enthusiastic supporter of new trade ties with Israel.
In a recent discussion he talked about the opportunities he sees and also his background meetings with Israeli colleagues in various industries. Prior to the Abraham Accords, he met Israelis in commodity fields that he deals with, such as diamonds.
Last year, in the wake of the peace deal, he was one of the first from Dubai to hop on a plane to Tel Aviv. He led the DMCC to put in place a representative office in the Israel Diamond Exchange. In January he hosted Alex Peterfreund, co-founder and cantor of the Jewish Council of the Emirates, and Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadi to put a mezuzah at the Israel Diamond Exchange office at the DMCC in Dubai.
Bin Sulayem said that months before the peace deal was announced, people thought he was crazy for predicting direct flights between Dubai and Tel Aviv. Now it’s happening. Last year some 100,000 Israelis went to Dubai before Israel closed its airports and went into lockdown.
Now travel looks to resume. Jewish life in the UAE and the Gulf is also thriving, with Hanukkah, Purim and now Passover events.
“In the beginning of last year I went to Israeli diamond week, my visit leaked to media, and I felt things were opening up,” recalled Bin Sulayem.
He had already set up important meetings in Israel with Landwer coffee and also Rami Levy and Israel’s Strauss company. He looked forward to hosting Israelis in Dubai. “Then there was the peace agreement, and then I hosted Rami Levy at the coffee center. It’s amazing how things have turned out.”
DMCC and the Israel Diamond Exchange have moved quickly to build their network. People are desperate to get back to flying again from Israel to the UAE.
Bin Sulayem, who is knowledgeable on numerous industries, from edible oils to diamonds to coffee, is also now focused on gold.
One thing he has been writing about is the issue of hand-carried gold. He began with a blog and hosting a discussion virtually about the topic of restricting hand-carried gold, like the kind that might be taken in significant amounts on planes.
“There has been progress with gold metal. I saw the OECD and others staying quiet. This must happen from trade and industry. I am happy federal government is supporting us and paying attention. We can’t single ourselves out and ban hand-carried gold; this must be inclusive... banning hand carry.”
He wrote on LinkedIn: “In terms of what the UAE is doing to further solidify its position as a transparent center for the wider industry, Dubai Good Delivery is currently being assessed to become a federal policy, meaning a nationwide, zero-tolerance approach to the illicit gold trade that will gain the support of the country’s Ministry of Economy, and therefore garner an enhanced level of resources to improve vigilance at every turn.”
Bin Sulayem also discussed changes in the diamond trade.  He has also become close to the Jewish community and establishments in the UAE. He mentions meeting Rabbi Levi Duchman and going to the new kosher restaurant Mul Hayam in Dubai.
The sky is the limit in all these new connections, from coffee to gold and diamonds. The Israeli shekel futures could be listed on the Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange for trade.
“I feel like I’m dreaming,” said Bin Sulayem about the new possibilities. He still said that he finds the concept of direct calls to Israel amazing. Not so long ago, it wasn’t possible. “It takes a bit of getting used to.”
He said education is key to adapting to the new reality. It’s easy for people to be critical of the new ties.
“Israel is one of the leading countries in the Middle East and the world, from tech and contribution to health and environment,” he said. “I am happy with this, and I hear stories that countries are joining. Sudan signed, and I hope it’s long-standing.
“We are moving on and peace is the best way. I made friends and business. I think today credit goes to the business community in Israel.”