The historic meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and UAE leader Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday confirmed that the relationship between the Jewish people and the Emiratis will be based on three pillars: security, economy, and a shared narrative of “rooted modernity,” the desire to be on the cusp of modern technology while staying rooted in our ancient traditions.
As part of a recent World Jewish Congress delegation to the United Arab Emirates, in collaboration with the UAE Embassy in Washington, D.C., we saw these three pillars in action, providing a promising future for peace and stability in the Middle East and elsewhere.
In the security field, we met with Dr. Al Nuaimi, chairman of the UAE Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He stressed the need for security coordination with Israel and the United States to prevent Iran and its various revolutionary proxies from threatening UAE, Israeli and American interests in the region. The UAE wants for this strategic security partnership to be visible to others, which is why joint military exercises between Israel, UAE and NATO are now being publicized.
He also emphasized the need for security cooperation against the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist terror attacks outside the Middle East. These attacks damage the Emiratis, just as they cause damage to innocent victims. Such security coordination will promote peace between Israel and additional Muslim countries, in Asia and Africa.
UAE Minister of Trade Dr. Al Zeyoudi defined the second pillar of the relationship well: “Economy, economy, economy will bring stability and peace to the region.” These are not mere words but declared policy. The UAE wants to research, trade and invest with Israel, shoulder to shoulder, with knowledge, technology and capital flowing in both directions.
They are firing three arrows to achieve this. First, the UAE is removing bureaucratic obstacles to enable the private sector to trade seamlessly. The two governments are finalizing a bilateral free trade agreement. This is a major upgrade to the relationship and a signal to other countries in the GCC that the UAE will not wait for them to advance their peace treaties with Israel.
The second arrow is fired through Mubadala, the sovereign wealth fund of the UAE, which has a broad portfolio spread across multiple sectors. In September, Mubadala announced its intention to invest $1.1 billion in Israel’s Tamar gas field, to generate commercial profits and have a seat at the table for discussions on a future gas pipeline from the UAE via Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and into Europe.
The third arrow is economic coordination between UAE, Israel and other countries. The UAE, Israel and Jordan just signed onto a project to erect a solar farm in Jordan, using UAE financing and technology. Israel will buy energy from this solar field to power a desalination plant on the Mediterranean Sea and will sell the water back to Jordan. According to reports, the solar field will be operational in 2026 and will provide 2% of Israel’s energy requirements by 2030.
The last pillar of the relationship is the shared narrative of Rooted Modernity. Upon landing in the airport in Abu Dhabi, one is surrounded by quotes on the walls proclaiming the importance of progress coupled with respect for roots: “We owe our future to the strength of our everlasting values” and “A nation without a past is a nation without a present or a future.”
UAE Minister for Tolerance H.E. Sheikh Al Nahyan underscored the UAE’s desire to deepen the relationship with Israel through exploring the shared roots of our ancient father, Abraham. The issue of shared roots in an ultra-modern world arose in many further meetings at the Expo, with diplomats, in a fascinating project to build a church, mosque and synagogue in one compound, and with the Jewish community.
These three pillars – security, economy and a shared narrative of rooted modernity – will provide the structure upon which our peoples will build a shared future. We both strive to be on the cusp of modern technology while rooting ourselves in ancient traditions dating back to Abraham in Mesopotamia 3750 years ago. This tension is not to be solved by modernity defeating tradition, or vice versa. Rather, this tension is to be celebrated and leveraged to create the energy which drives us into the future.
Terry Newman, who resides in Israel, is the director of MCC London and a member of the World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomat Corps. He also is the author of the forthcoming book “The Jewish Century.”
A version of this piece appeared in Hebrew in the Israeli publication www.walla.co.il.