Israel-UAE commercial flight
Making direct flights frequent ones... UAE and Israel are moving closer to making this happen. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: With Israel’s Parliament set to ratify the peace treaty with UAE today (October 15), the next step would be to start work on direct flights, according to a senior Israeli Minister. It was on Monday that the Israeli Cabinet voted to pass the peace treaty.

“The Parliament must approve the treaty as a first – and important – step,” said Ofir Akunis, Minister for Regional Cooperation. “It will be approved by the Knesset… and with a big majority.

“Then all the authorities in Israel will be eligible to sign the various individual agreements, including the air agreement. As far as I know, it will be the first one [to be taken up]…”. (The accord with Bahrain will be taken up later.)

Already, there is much happening even before a formal ‘Air Services Agreement’ is signed – on Wednesday, a UAE based firm – NY Koen Group - confirmed it is in the running to buy an Israeli budget airline Israir. Earlier, the Al Habtoor Group had confirmed talks with the same airline for launching direct flights.

Tax holiday for UAE businesses?

“All Israelis – the Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze - will benefit from the accord with the UAE… and Bahrain,” the Minister added. “Both governments are working closely to reach an economic agreement that will include a tax deal [for investments made in either country].

“We have already signed a MoU of banking and finance on September 1, and we did that to open the door to further agreements between institutions in either country. The ministers and officials are negotiating specific details in order to reach the best possible agreements for all sides. We will see results in the next few days… and weeks.

“In my opinion, the citizens in Israel and everywhere else should pay less taxes generally. That’s my ideology. But we need the decision to be made by the Cabinet, the concerned ministers.”

Israel Minister Ofir Akunis
Israel Minister Ofir Akunis will be heading a delegation featuring mayors of up to 20 cities to the UAE and Bahrain next month. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Opening up new routes

Next month, Akunis is heading a delegation that will meet UAE and Bahraini counterparts. The intention, according to the minister, is to keep government-to-government dealings progress at a fast clip, which would then set the stage for businesses to follow.

Earlier this week, the first cargo ship from Dubai docked at Haifa Port – apart from the path-breaking nature of the arrival, there are other factors coming into play. Dubai’s DP World, which operates multiple ports in its network, including in London and South America, is one of the interested parties bidding to operate the Haifa Port. (The privatization process could take a further 12 months or more.)

“These shipments will become a regular feature and open new trade route,” the minister said. “Haifa is an important junction – the most important place as the gate to Europe, the Mediterranean and even to the Americas. There is also the Ashdod Port, which is just as vital.”

Part of the ‘gateway’

The minister reckons UAE businesses can have a role in the ‘Jordan Gateway’ industrial zone development located on the Israel-Jordan border. “It can be much more than a deal between Israel and Jordan – I have talked with the UAE Minister Reem Al Hashimi about Emirates’ involvement in the project,” he added.

The Jordan Gateway Free Zone Industrial Park extends over 1.2 million square metres on the ‎Jodanian side, and 270,000 square metres into Israel. ‎