Israel, UAE, US launch joint fund in Jerusalem during first state visit

The US, Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced the establishment of a joint regional development fund based in Jerusalem during the first-ever visit of a government delegation from Abu Dhabi to Israel on Tuesday.
Also during the visit, the UAE officially requested to open an embassy in Tel Aviv.

Members of the delegation gave Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi a letter in which his UAE counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed says he “appreciate[s] the efforts you are making to promote cooperation between our countries and I have full faith in your unreserved support for opening diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi as quickly as possible.”
The Abraham Fund – derived from the Abraham Accords, as the peace between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain is known – will be launched with an office in Jerusalem and a $3 billion starting trilateral investment to promote economic cooperation and prosperity in the Middle East and North Africa.

The fund “is a manifestation of the new spirit of friendship and cooperation between the three countries, as well as their common will to advance the region,” a statement from the US Embassy in Israel said, adding that other countries will be welcome to join.

It will invest in “people-focused investments,” including in increased regional trade, strategic infrastructure projects, energy security and agricultural productivity.

US International Development Finance Corporation CEO Adam Boehler announced the fund on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport, where a ceremony was held in honor of the first Emirati government delegation to Israel, led by UAE Financial Affairs Minister Obaid Humaid al Tayer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “asked us to come to do everything we could to turn the words of the accords into action and invest behind these accords and support other countries as they support these accords,” Boehler said. “People are tired of the same and want economic security and jobs that come from enduring peace.”

Boehler said progress had been made on two projects, “MedRed,” a preliminary deal with Israeli pipeline company EPAC to transport oil from the UAE to Europe via a pipeline connecting the Red Sea from Eilat to the Mediterranean at the Ashdod Port, and an effort to modernize checkpoints for Palestinians in Israel and Jordan.

Among the agreements Israel and the UAE signed on Tuesday was one allowing for travel between the countries without a visa, the first agreement of its kind between Israel and an Arab state.

The other agreements were on protecting investments, science and technological cooperation, and regular flights between the countries.

“We are making history in a way that will stand for generations,” Netanyahu said. “This meeting shows the region and the entire world the benefit of having friendly, peaceful, normal relations. Ultimately it will be so much better working together as friends.”

Netanyahu spoke of the spirit of “Abraham, Avraham, Ibrahim,” saying the Biblical Patriarch’s name in English, Hebrew and Arabic being behind the agreements.

Business ties between Israel and the UAE’s “many, many talented entrepreneurs will benefit peace,” he added, in what was the theme of all the remarks made at the ceremony.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the Abraham Accords mark “direct economic ties between two of the Middle East’s most thriving, advanced economies.

“With greater economic prosperity comes stronger security,” Mnuchin added. “The US, Israel and the UAE share a similar outlook regarding threats and opportunities in the region.”

Tayer said he was honored to lead the UAE’s first government delegation to Israel, which would “deepen bilateral understanding, capitalizing on both countries’ leadership and the great opportunities ahead.”

Touting the UAE’s economic advancement and the importance of the agreements signed with Israel, Tayer said the Abraham Accords will “achieve prosperity and growth for our economies and our people.”

Mnuchin, Boehler and US special representative for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz flew with the UAE delegation from Abu Dhabi to Israel.

Berkowitz tweeted a photo of his boarding pass, as well as Etihad Airways Captain Naeem Alameri, the pilot, saying: “This is a historical movement for UAE country and Israel, and we are looking forward to salaam” – the Arabic word for peace – “in the future.”

President Reuven Rivlin praised the events, tweeting that “ the agreements signed today with UAE ministers are the dawning of a new era of peace in the Middle East. Inshallah” – meaning “God willing” in Arabic – “more will follow and we will live in peace and cooperation with all our neighbors. Welcome to Israel!”

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