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Israeli pavilion opens at Expo 2020 in Dubai

What happened: The Israeli pavilion at the Expo 2020 in Dubai was officially opened last night by Israel Minister of Tourism Yoel Razvozov (Yesh Atid), who told the gathering that for “first time in history, the Expo fair is being held in an Arab country. It is the first time that there is an Israeli pavilion in a major fair on Arab soil.”

  • He added: “The signing of the Abraham Accords about a year ago was a historic, watershed moment for the Middle East that marked the beginning of an entirely new chapter for the region. It represents a decision to build a better future together that will benefit all of our people.”
  • “Israel firmly believes that peace brings peace. The Accords opened the door to additional peace agreements, and indeed, more peaceful ties have been established since the signing. Israel yearns for peaceful ties with its neighbours.”
  • The event was attended by over 250 people including local Emirati dignitaries, Israeli officials and businesspeople and foreign diplomats.
  • The themes decorating the Israeli pavilion represent Israel’s contribution to humanity, such as advancements in health tech, water conservation, clean energy and protecting nature. The huge screens also projected scenes from the Old City of Jerusalem, the modern city of Tel Aviv and the coral reef in Eilat.
  • Unlike almost all the other pavilions which are enclosed, Israel’s entrance is deliberately left open to allow even those who do not visit to see Israel’s content. The openness is also a symbol of welcoming new partners for peace.    

Context: The UAE invited Israel to participate in the Expo back in 2018, before the countries had established formal diplomatic ties.

  • As well as the tourism minister, two other Israeli ministers visited the UAE this week.
  • Minister of Interior Ayelet Shaked (Yamina) met with her counterparts. She reflected that during her visit she “experienced true peace”. Relating to the importance of the Expo, she said it was “an excellent platform to leverage connections and develop new economic opportunities between Israel, the UAE and the whole world”.
  • Also meeting her counterpart, Minister for Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) emphasised the importance of combatting climate change. Relating to the Expo she said” “I call on all the countries in the region, including countries with which we still do not have official relations, to use Expo Dubai as a diving board into cooperation that is so critical to our shared future.”
  • Since the signing of the Abraham Accords there have already been several tech partnerships:
    • Israeli air-to-water company Watergen has 15 medium-sized machines spread around beaches and parks in Abu Dhabi as part of a pilot programme.
    • Clean-tech engine start-up Aquarius Engines has signed an MoU with a British firm to produce its automotive products in the UAE.
    • Israeli biotech company MediWound will distribute its burn treatment technology in the UAE after it signed an agreement with the Ghassan Aboud Group.
    • Haifa-based regenerative medicine company Pluristem Therapeutics signed a MoU with the Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Center to advance cell therapies for diseases.

Looking forward: During Shaked’s visit she announced that from next week Israelis will be able to visit the UAE without obtaining a visa in advance.

  • The Israeli tourism ministry expects this to lead to a significant increase in Israelis travelling to the UAE.
  • Similarly, Israel is hoping that as both countries continue to see a decline in coronavirus infections, more Emiratis will visit Israel.
  • Next week in Jerusalem the Knesset’s Abraham Accords Caucus will host its inaugural event to mark the opening of a new institute led by former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, aimed at expanding and deepening the Abraham Accords.
  • The Israeli Foreign Ministry estimates that in the next six months about 15 million people will visit the Israeli Expo pavilion.

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