Both countries are set to benefit from the shaping deal set to be signed later this month, says an Israeli investor. But before they can reap the fruit of joint trade, they should first overcome a cultural gap, set their differences aside and learn to respect each other’s traditions.
It’s been less than a month since Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced that they would establish full diplomatic ties.
Although they will officially confirm their intentions on 15 September, signing a historic peace pact, the two states have already set the ball rolling, inking a number of important agreements.
Only the Beginning
Shlomi Fogel, an Israeli entrepreneur with extensive experience building and managing large companies, says the agreements already signed between Israel and the UAE are just the beginning.
“Trade is the key. You start with it first. Then you go into tourism and investment and then you end up opening your own factories there. Opportunities are abundant.”
Fogel knows what he is talking about. As the owner, chairman and CEO of Ampa group, an Israeli conglomerate which deals with real estate, finance and industry, he has been working with the Gulf states for years and came to appreciate the opportunities that their market could bring.
Apart from being a diverse economy, which is constantly growing and expanding, the UAE features several free trade zones, offering tax concessions and custom duty benefits.
In addition, the country has no taxation on personal income, it offers relatively cheap labour, and it’s centrally located, close to other important markets. That is something which promises to attract many Israeli investors, who will be lured by the economic benefits their presence in the UAE would entail.
“We used to do business from there in the past but doing so, we needed to overcome a number of obstacles. The documentation process, for example, was more complicated, and we could never ship products directly, and that meant that the shipment process was much longer and more expensive,” said Fogel.
Now with the historic agreement fast approaching, these regulations and bureaucracy are expected to be put aside, making the UAE market more accessible and appealing.
According to Israeli estimates, the contracts that have already been inked with the UAE will generate some $500 million for Israel, whereas annual trade turnover might bring in $6.5 billion when cooperation between the two countries matures.
But for that cooperation to succeed, Fogel thinks both sides should “play fair”.
“If I had to give a tip to Israeli companies trying their luck in the UAE, I would advise them to be straight, honest and respectful to their culture.”
Bridging the Gaps
Similar views have also been expressed by Ariella Steinreich, Senior Vice President for Steinreich Communications Group, which has recently launched a new practice that aims at bridging the gaps between Israeli and Emirati companies and helping them work together.
“Being an American company, we have been doing business in the Gulf for years, but soon after the announcement of the establishment of diplomatic ties, we have received dozens of phone calls from both Israeli and Emirati companies, asking us for assistance.”
Steinreich says the industries that approach her firm range from the more obvious suspects, such as tourism and high tech, to businesses dealing with healthcare, education, home furnishing and even fashion, and all they want to know is how to get their message across to the audience on the other side.
“They are specifically asking for communications help, including social media and creative services, because the way you communicate with your audience differs from one country to another. Israelis are often very pushy, whereas Emiratis take their time and it is important to know these differences when you go into business together,” said Steinreich.
Steinreich believes it is only a matter of time until the two states establish a smooth working relationship, and says that both countries are set to benefit from the new agreement.
“The UAE are trying to minimise their dependency on oil and gas, and so working with Israel will open up numerous opportunities for them,” reassured Steinreich, who says it also promises a number of benefits for Israeli companies.
Those will not only be limited to the fact that presence in the UAE will “unlock the other five GCC countries like a domino effect”. For Israel, it will be much more than that; it will also bring Israel closer to the Palestinians.
And Fogel agrees. “When Israeli and Palestinian companies will start to cooperate to market and export their products to the Emirati market, we will create a situation of economic peace. And there are also good chances that other countries of the region will also want to join in and take part in this process,” he concluded.