- During its first Dubai Airshow in November 2021, following the Abraham Accords, Israel was represented by several of its major defense contractors and smaller technology and weapons companies, which saw a steady stream of visitors, including many of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
- Two years later, and a month after Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the scene is unrecognizable.
The Israel Aerospace Industries pavilion is empty at the Dubai Airshow 2023 at Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 14, 2023.
Natasha Turak | CNBC
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Amid the bustle and footsteps of thousands of visitors and exhibitors at the 2023 Dubai Airshow, one pavilion is noticeably empty: Israel’s.
During its first Dubai Airshow in November 2021, following the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations with the United Arab Emirates, Israel was represented by several of its major defense contractors and smaller technology and weapons companies. There was no shortage of engagement at their company stands, with Emiratis and Saudis examining Israeli products and holding conversations with company staff, many of whom were in the Gulf for the first time in their lives.
Two years later, and a month after Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the scene is unrecognizable.
The only visible Israeli representation was a large pavilion of the state-owned company Israel Aerospace Industries, as well as the stands of Elbit Systems Ltd. and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. More notable than the reduced presence of Israeli companies was the lack of staff and visitors. ; The spaces were generally deserted or occupied by visitors unaffiliated with the air show who said they were there only to use the free chairs and tables.
On the first day of the exhibition, the IAI pavilion was surrounded by a red cordon, which was removed on the second day.
CNBC attempted to speak to one person who said they worked for IAI and two who worked at the Elbit Systems booth, but in all cases the people declined to comment. IAI and Elbit Systems did not respond to a request for comment sent by CNBC via email.
CNBC contacted two representatives of Israeli defense companies who attended the air show in 2021; They said they did not attend this year’s show because they had been recruited by the country’s military.
Meanwhile, SIBAT, Israel’s Directorate of International Defense Cooperation, canceled its participation; An email from the Israeli Defense Ministry’s media office was quoted by Defense News before the event it said: “In light of the war that began on October 7, SIBAT has decided not to inaugurate a national pavilion at global defense exhibitions until further notice.”
Contrast that with the statement from IAI CEO Boaz Levy ahead of the 2021 Dubai Airshow, saying that “one year after the signing of the Abraham Accords, we are delighted to participate in the show and expand cooperation with commercial partners in the Gulf region.
After more than three years of enjoying warm relations with several Arab states (followed by normalization agreements with Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan and with the United Arab Emirates) and amid US-mediated talks on possible normalization with Saudi Arabia, tensions between Israel and the rest of the Middle East are once again high.
Israel’s military response to the October 7 terrorist attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, an attack that killed 1,200 people and took about 240 hostage, has drawn vocal condemnation from much of the world, including those new allies. Arabs.
As of Nov. 14, Israel’s air and ground offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has killed more than 11,000 people, according to Palestinian health officials. The United Nations has warned that time is running out to “avoid genocide and a humanitarian catastrophe” in the besieged enclave, which has already been under an Israeli blockade since 2007.
In late October, as Israel’s ground operation in Gaza began, the United Arab Emirates condemned the developments and “expressed deep concern about the Israeli military escalation and the exacerbation of the humanitarian crisis that threatens further loss of civilian life.”
Most countries in the UN General Assembly have called for a humanitarian ceasefire and Arab states have roundly condemned Israel’s actions. The Israeli government says its operations are necessary to eliminate Hamas and defend itself, and denies deliberately targeting civilians, saying Hamas uses them as human shields.
UAE leaders have repeatedly condemned Israel’s actions and called for a ceasefire, although they have given no indication of any intention to sever ties with the Jewish state. Following the signing of the Abraham Accords in August 2020, the two nations pledged billions of dollars in cross-border investment and cooperation, particularly in the areas of defense, technology and tourism.
The United Arab Emirates’ national airline Etihad and Dubai-based low-cost airline FlyDubai continue to operate flights to Tel Aviv, although the airlines have reduced the volume of those flights. Dubai’s flagship airline Emirates suspended all flights to Israel on October 12, citing “the safety of our customers and employees.”
The United Arab Emirates supposedly intended to be a mediating influence in the conflict, taking advantage of its relations with the rest of the Arab world and its close alliance with the United States, which has military installations and personnel stationed in the country.