Israel punches above its weight at the Dubai Airshow - opinion

The airshow was a tremendous success and shows that the Israel-UAE relationship is soaring.

 UAE CROWN PRINCE Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan meeting with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) leadership at the Dubai Airshow. (photo credit: Courtesy)
UAE CROWN PRINCE Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan meeting with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) leadership at the Dubai Airshow.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

For more than 30 years, the prestigious Dubai Airshow has brought together the leading companies in civil and military aviation. Tens of thousands of people would visit the show each year looking for the latest technologies and opportunities for their companies. Noticeably absent was one of the region’s largest players in this field – Israel.

Amid the pavilions of Russia, China, Germany and Italy at the airshow this year, Israel was the belle of the ball. With the latest in drone technology, defense and aircraft conversion, the numbers of government, military, commercial and private aviation leaders touring the spaces of Israeli companies was stunning yet not surprising, as so many have already previously recognized Israel’s prowess in the space.

Since the signing of the Abraham Accords, there has been much buzz about the growing relationships between Israeli companies in a variety of sectors and their Gulf, North African and broader Arab world counterparts. We have seen jumps in travel and tourism, for example, and the signing of many memoranda of understanding between companies. The Dubai Airshow was a more dramatic example of how this region has changed.

While there has been ample rumor over the decades of collaboration between Israel’s defense industry and Arab countries, many of whom increasingly understand the common security threats they face, it had been rare to see this interest and partnership above the table before the Abraham Accords. 

However, watching military leaders streaming through Israel corporate and even government stands at the airshow, was to watch a parade of nations who clearly share common goals and values in this dynamically changing region. More executives and leaders from around the world – whether they wore colorful military garb or business attire including the traditional regional kandura – walked in the front doors of these spaces, not the back ones. It was evident throughout the four-day event.

 People walk past the Israeli display during the Dubai Air Show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 14, 2021. (credit:  REUTERS/STAFF) People walk past the Israeli display during the Dubai Air Show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 14, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/STAFF)

Even heads of state made the visit, adding to the openness and transparency Israel has experienced since the agreements were signed. There was an excitement in the room as they stopped by, and in many ways it was symbolic of how wonderful this new relationship is – both on the friendship and business levels. 

MANY PUNDITS have talked about the pace of actual deals in the business sectors – and some have commented that they believe it is moving slower in some than others. In some cases, this has cast an inaccurate pall over the business climate between Israel and the Gulf nations, in particular. 

But this could not be further from the truth. Rather, what those pundits must learn is that deals in the Gulf are not completed in a New York Minute, but rather at a slow and steady pace.

While there were many deals announced at the airshow, I believe that there were many more conversations started that will lead to further collaboration. As we have seen in a variety of sectors, business leaders in the Gulf take time to build relationships with their counterparts and once those foundations are built, they move to the business collaboration stage. 

As we have seen from the many clients we represent, it is as important for them to learn about your families, as it is the features in the products you are selling. The airshow was a tremendous success and shows that the Israel-UAE relationship is soaring.

The writer is CEO of the Steinreich Communications public relations firm, with offices in Israel and the Gulf.