Two years of the Abraham Accords: Tech and innovation play a critical role

The Abraham Accords unleashed great opportunity and potential for our region. We have shifted the prevailing dialogue from defense and security to innovation and collaboration. As we look back over the last two years, innovation and technology have played a central role in business exchange. Setting our sights toward the third year of this relationship, I believe that trade and investment between Israel and the Abraham Accord countries will double in 2023 and that innovation and technology will continue to make up a significant part in this. Collaboration in innovation and tech, in the form of mutual investments and geographic expansion, will play a major role in Israel’s integration into the region.

After the rush of Israeli tourism, technology and innovation deals have led to a new dawn in the region. We are seeing major deals being formed in their early stages and an interest in not only buying Israeli innovation but investment and partnerships as well. I am particularly excited about the idea of collaboration. Working together with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco will allow citizens of all of our countries to better understand each other — culturally and professionally, which I believe will lead to greater understanding between our peoples.

New Middle East alliances are taking shape in response to opportunity and the need to confront shared challenges. The politics of yesterday are being replaced with the interests of the people of the region. For example, the Accords have allowed us to explore collaboration around urgent climate needs. It has also provided the opportunity to address the human capital challenge while also contributing to the development of the innovation ecosystem in these countries.

While we often group these countries together and refer to them as the “Abraham Accords countries,” it’s important to realize that they have different characteristics and Israel’s relationship with each of them is based on different needs. For example, I recently joined our partners in Morocco for a major innovation conference that we organized to encourage Israelis and Moroccans to collaborate and innovate on solutions to common threats, like water security, food shortages, and human capital challenges. What we saw was a genuine desire — from government ministers to heads of universities to the country’s business elite — for precisely the sort of innovation in which Israel excels. On the Israeli side, we saw a similar interest in the possibilities that collaborating with Morocco could offer as a gateway to the rest of the African continent.

Along with Bahrain’s Ambassador to Israel, Ambassador Khaled Al Jalahma and our partners at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Israel and Bahrain’s Economic Development Board, we recently brought together 15 leading Israeli start-ups to discuss setting up a regional R&D hub in Bahrain. The Kingdom of Bahrain offers low operating costs as well as significant labor subsidies that can benefit Israeli start-ups and provide a solution to combat the tech employment shortage in Israel. These startups can provide technological advancements to Bahrain and make a huge impact on the economy and the overall level of jobs created.

While we’ve worked closely with the UAE on several projects, we recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Abu Dhabi Global Market, Abu Dhabi’s leading international financial center, to work together to explore and promote collaboration and investment opportunities for companies in our respective ecosystems, and the opening of such companies’ commercial presence in ADGM and Israel. We are consulting with each other on matters relating to policy and funding to contribute to the general development of the innovation ecosystem in their respective countries. A similar agreement was signed nearly a year ago with DIFC, the Dubai International Financial Center, focusing on collaborations in the field of fintech, which seeks to marry the UAE’s need for advanced financial tools with Israel’s expertise in developing such solutions.

The Accords were created with the idea of bringing peace and prosperity to the region and over the last two years, they have done so. We have seen wonderful developments on the economics front — including the signing of the Free Trade Agreement between Israel and the UAE, on the people-to-people front and in the arts and culture space. The excitement is contagious, and we have seen other countries take note. Last month, Turkey and Israel announced that they would restore full diplomatic ties and there is business taking place between companies in Israel and its Arab neighbors, even without official diplomatic relations.

Leaders establish diplomatic relations, but it’s up to the people of both nations to make it a warm peace and what we are seeing two years into the Abraham Accords is that the people of both countries are partners in making these Accords work. The signing of the Abraham Accords on Sept. 15, 2020, was just the beginning and as we are about to embark on the third year of this relationship, the future has never been so bright for our region.

This article was originally published in USA Today.

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