On April 19, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, one of Israel's leading defense companies, and Group 42 (G42), a major technology company based in Abu Dhabi, announced the signing of an agreement to form a new joint venture.
This follows the signing of a strategic agreement between EDGE, an advanced technology group based in Abu Dhabi, with Israel Aerospace Industries to focus on counter-drone technology.
In March, Faisal Al Bannai, CEO and managing director of EDGE, said the agreement was "in line with the recent Abraham Accords and the UAE's newly established cooperation and spirit of collaboration with Israel. EDGE and IAI are joining forces to deal with this growing threat."
These two deals are important and symbolic. IAI and Rafael were the first major Israeli companies to publicly announce partnerships in the UAE last year, when they joined forces to focus on solutions to defeat COVID in July. That was even before the Abraham Accords had been announced, and it foreshadowed the announcement. It was that agreement, along with an op-ed by UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba, that illustrates how rapidly peace was about to be achieved.
Every week brings new deals and announcements advancing Israel-UAE ties.
It has been a whirlwind since then, with 150,000 Israelis visiting Dubai. Then came the conferences and confabs, GITEX, IDEX, organic food, cyber, and more. Every week brings new deals and announcements.
That doesn't mean everything moved as fast as some wanted. A common concern in Abu Dhabi at first was that Israelis want to run, and the UAE takes things more slowly. But anyone who came on the recent Etihad flight to Israel, as the carrier inaugurated a historic service to Tel Aviv in early April, is witness to the rapidly growing story. Underpinning it is a multilayered relationship.
Correspondents from the Emirates who are writing in Israeli newspapers such as Israel Hayom, and journalists, such as Michal Divon, who writes for Khaleej Times, are showcasing the new relationships, the rugby matches and growth of kosher cuisine in the UAE.
It is also clear that the new relations are rapidly growing into a regional alliance that includes Greece, Cyprus and other states that are linked to Israel and the UAE, such as Egypt. Cyprus hosted diplomats from Israel, the UAE and Greece for a meeting under sun-drenched Mediterranean skies last week, on the "changing face" of the region.
"Today's meeting is a first substantial step toward broadening the positive influence of the Abraham Accords to our partners in the Eastern Mediterranean," Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.
Israel and Greece signed a record defense deal on April 18 that will establish a growing partnership for the next two decades.
Then IAF jets participated alongside Greek and Emirati pilots in the Iniochos air force exercise.
"Israel's participation in the Iniochos exercise in recent years is yet another manifestation of the strong partnership and collaboration that have developed between the Israeli and Greek armed forces, aimed at strengthening regional cooperation, stability and security," the Israeli Embassy in Athens said.
Now, back to the UAE. While the air forces and navies of Israel, Greece and Cyprus are all building cooperation, likely looking fondly toward France and Egypt as well, other deals are cementing UAE-Israel ties and helping the two countries to form a strategic hub linking the region.
The joint venture with Group 42 and Rafael will commercialize Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data technologies and solutions for multiple sectors, the companies say.
At the signing event, held in Herzliya, the UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khaja, G42's Group CEO Peng Xiao, and Rafael's president and CEO Yoav Har-Even met alongside the CEO of G42 Israel, Maoz Ben-Ari, and the CEO of Presight.AI, Sean Teo, and others.
"Presight.AI will establish a research and development center in Israel, tapping into the local talent to spearhead the advancement of AI and big data technologies and their application across multiple sectors such as banking, healthcare, public safety and others. The agreement is subject to regulatory approvals by Israeli and UAE authorities," IAI said.
"The new JV [joint venture] between Rafael and G42 is not just two companies coming together, but a strategic collaboration that further strengthens the relationship between Israel and the UAE, as the countries explore multifaceted opportunities for bilateral economic growth," Khaja said.
The collaboration between these leading companies is part of deeper economic cooperation in areas of common interest for the countries.
For instance, G42 was the first company to open offices in Israel after the UAE's normalization with the Jewish state. It is part of a broader recognition by innovators in the UAE about how Israel's hi-tech abilities fit well with Emirati abilities.
This is important because these countries are breaking ground on AI and big data as well as elements like fintech and foodtech and other technologies. A lot of companies are noticing this around the world. Silver Lake, a global technology investment firm, is investing $800 million in Group 42.
Meanwhile, the partnership in the joint venture, which is called Presight.AI, is aimed at commercializing artificial intelligence and big data technologies for use in diverse sectors. This will influence banking, healthcare and public safety, among other areas, according to sources.
The Abraham Accords made much of this possible, and these are the building blocks upon which the next year of the accords will rise.
An estimated 200 Israeli companies were doing business in the Gulf states, through third parties or subsidiaries, even before normalization. But now secrecy and complexity have been reduced. This is why the very public meetings in Cyprus, Greece and Israel are part and parcel of the recent shake-up underpinning the UAE-Israel partnership.
Seth J. Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.