world / mena

Israeli official: Arab East Jerusalem can become regional tech R&D hub

‘Jerusalem is not dissimilar from Dubai, very multi-cultural, very diverse’

Fleur Hassan-Nahoum Deputy Mayor, Foreign Relations, Jerusalem Municipality and co-founder of the UAE Israel Business Council.
Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE-Israel peace deal offers tangible benefits to Palestinians, a senior Israeli official has said. “If I can help bring a UAE company to invest in helping us build a Silicon Valley to [Arab] East Jerusalem, that’s a tangible benefit [to the Palestinians] of the UAE-Israel peace deal,” Fleur Hassan-Nahoum Deputy Mayor, Foreign Relations, Jerusalem Municipality and co-founder of the UAE Israel Business Council said.

Speaking to Gulf News in Dubai, Hassan-Nahoum said she wanted East Jerusalem to become the R&D back-office of the Middle East “because we have young Arabic-speaking men and women engineers who can provide amazing services because they have been raised in the atmosphere of innovation in Israel. Whatever the Emiratis are looking for in Israel I believe we can provide it in the city, in Arabic, when it is needed.”

She added: “We also have 70 languages in Jerusalem, we have immigrants from 80 countries. We are not dissimilar from Dubai, very multi-cultural, very diverse.”

‘Tangible benefits’

Hassan-Nahoum said she would consider it a tangible benefit if she could bring “five UAE technology companies that want technology hubs in Israel and they can set up shop in East Jerusalem because I can give them special corporate tax rate benefits and employ 3,000 young Arabs [Palestinians]. If I can give employment to Arab tour operators ...if I can give them work because they understand the complexities of Haram Al Sharif and if 50 Arab tour guides from East Jerusalem work for the next five years, that’s a tangible benefit.”

Speaking Hebrew

Hassan-Nahoum said Palestinians make up 37 per cent of the city, and 70 per cent of them live under the poverty line. “Why are they in such a situation? In Arab East Jerusalem, 90 per cent of the children go to Palestinian [National] Authority schools, which don’t teach Hebrew. So kids are growing up in a city whose language they do not speak and they are surrounded by universities and colleges which are the best in the world ...which they can’t go to because they don’t speak the language. We are trying to encourage the schools to adopt the Israeli curriculum.”

Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council, and Dorian Barak, Founder, UAE-Israel Business Council, during an interview with Gulf News in Habtoor Palace in Dubai. 11 October 2020. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News
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Visa regime

Asked when the deal signed between the UAE and Israel would be considered a success, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum pointed towards a mutually acceptable visa regime, when Israelis can come to the UAE with an Israeli passport.

Dorian Barak, co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council, said the UAE has the largest catchment base of opportunities. “And the deal will be a success when we do what we see German companies and American companies doing - establishing sizeable operations, manufacturing and exporting goods, and using this place as a platform for managing business in the region.”

Tourism opportunities

Hassan-Nahoum said she was excited by the tourism opportunities that the deal offered. “People can come, visit, pray and worship. I’m very excited by the prospect of sizeable Muslim tourism. About 30 per cent of the economy of Jerusalem is based on foreign tourism and I’m looking forward to opening a new chapter with a new country. Hope we can live up to the same levels of hospitality that you have here.”