JERUSALEM – In a sign of the dramatic acceleration of the economic, financial and commercial alliance being forged between the U.S., Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the three countries announced on Tuesday the establishment of $3 billion joint investment initiative known as the Abraham Fund.
On Wednesday, a deal worth between $700 million and $800 million was struck that will allow the UAE to transport its oil more quickly to Europe by using an existing Israeli pipeline from Eilat on the Red Sea to Ashkelon, an Israeli city on the shores of the Mediterranean.
The newly-formed Abraham Fund will be run by the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and invest in “strategic projects with a high developmental impact, including those that catalyze economic growth, improve standards of living, and create high-value, quality jobs,” according to a joint statement.
Strategic projects that can improve the quality of life for both Israelis and Emiratis will be chosen in the areas of infrastructure, development, technology, healthcare, agriculture, clean water and affordable energy.
The Abraham Fund puts significant financial legs under the Abraham Accords, the peace treaty and full normalization agreement signed by Israeli and UAE officials at the White House on Sept. 15.
Officials say the fund will open an office in Jerusalem, working closely with the U.S. Embassy.
The announcement was made at Ben-Gurion Airport during a trilateral summit hosted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
This was the first time a delegation of UAE ministers and other senior officials have ever visited Israel.
The group arrived on an Etihad passenger jet. On Monday, the first-ever commercial flight of an Emirati airline from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv touched down with an unofficial delegation on Monday and returned to the UAE with an Israeli delegation of tourism industry leaders.
“When the UAE plane touched down on the tarmac, it was a really, really moving sight,” an Israeli official at the event told ALL ISRAEL NEWS. “Seeing the Emirati team come off the plane and walk on the ground here in Israel was remarkable and historic.”
“My staff wrote me some lines,” said Netanyahu at the summit. “They started by saying, ‘Today we are literally witnessing history in the making.’ And I said, ‘Absolutely not! Today we are making history! We are making history in a way that will stand for generations.’”
Israeli and Emirati businessmen and venture capital funds have been scrambling in recent weeks to open relationships and build strategic commercial alliances between the two countries.
On Oct. 6, the Israeli-based OurCrowd venture capital team announced it was creating a $100 million investment fund with a UAE businessman.
“What was a trickle of contact and contracts before is now growing into a tsunami of ultimately billions of dollars of bi-lateral investment, joint ventures and joint venture creation and research," OurCrowd chief executive Jon Medved told The National, the UAE-based English language daily newspaper.
Netanyahu drew special attention to the name of the agreement and the Abraham Fund.
“Ultimately, Jews and Arabs are the descendants of one common ancestor: Avraham, Abraham, Ibrahim,” the prime minister said. “It is in his name that we have designated this historic peace initiative. In his spirit, we wish to foster a Middle East of coexistence and cooperation, of mutual understanding and mutual respect.”
Netanyahu noted that the countries were signing “four agreements that will make a tangible difference for our peoples.”
“The first,” he said, “is to provide for the protection of investments, to create an economic environment that will benefit all our people, all our entrepreneurs, and there are many, many talented entrepreneurs, and this will benefit peace obviously.”
“The second is an agreement of cooperation in science and technology to ensure that both our countries can embrace the hope and opportunities of the future. The ever-changing technology that benefits health, clean environment, safe environment, all these things that are people desperately want and deserve they will get from this cooperation.”
“Third, we are facilitating civil aviation. We are connecting Israel and the UAE through multiple direct flights, and Israelis will be able to go to many destinations beyond that, to the east, in Asia.”
“And fourth, we are exempting our nationals from visas and this will offer a huge boost for business, tourism and people-to-people contacts,” Netanyahu noted.
Adam Boehler, CEO of the DFC, echoed the PM’s enthusiasm.
“The Abraham Fund will tackle challenges facing the region and increase economic opportunity for everyone,” he said. “We are excited to take this historic partnership to the next level to promote shared prosperity.”
Ahmed Al Sayegh, the UAE’s minister of state, added that the fund “reflects the desire of the three countries to put the wellbeing of people first, regardless of their creed or identity.”
The UAE “is confident the initiative can be a source of economic and technological strength for the region, while simultaneously improving the lives of those who need the most support,” he added.
“The Abraham Fund we are launching today will be an essential tool in the realization of the vision of our leaders to enhance regional cooperation,” said Ronen Peretz, director general of the Prime Minister’s Office. “It will support the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs, it will produce the necessary menu of financial tools, and it will provide the facilitation of our governments. The combination of business, finance, and government is essential in the creation of projects on the ground.”
The UAE delegation to Israel was led by Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al Tayer and Minister Ahmed Al Sayegh.
The U.S. delegation was led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Avi Berkowitz, the White House point man on Middle East peace initiatives.
Israel’s Minister of Regional Cooperation Ofir Akunis also met Tuesday with Boehler at Ben-Gurion Airport, as part of the trilateral summit between the governments of Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.