Iran is not the only threat that Middle East countries can unite around
When the foreign ministers of four Arab countries, the US, and Israel gathered a couple of weeks ago for the first time, they did not sit in Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, or its military headquarters in Tel Aviv. The historic ministerial for Egypt, the UAE, Morocco, Bahrain, Israel and the US took place in the Negev desert’s Sde Boker.
The secluded kibbutz, where Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion lived out his last years and is now buried, symbolizes to Israelis the grit, innovation, and social solidarity necessary to build a modern state. By choosing that spot, the six countries were showing their readiness to confront shared challenges through those same traits. The eighteen months since the signing of the Abraham Accords among Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan (which did not send a representative) have demonstrated that the benefits of cooperation extend far beyond security and survival to include long-term prosperity for all the people of the region.
“What we are doing here is making history, building a new regional architecture based on progress, technology, religious tolerance, security, and intelligence cooperation,” said Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, echoing Ben-Gurion’s assertion that history is made, not written. Lapid was not alone. The ministers agreed to form working groups on health, food security, energy, tourism, security, and education. Israel, though historically poor in natural resources, has emerged in recent years as a world leader in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Start-Up Nation Central, the non-profit I lead, which is dedicated to strengthening the Israeli innovation ecosystem and promoting it around the world, regularly tracks and reports on the constantly growing and maturing Israeli high-tech industry and has a first-hand view of how it impacts Israel’s international relations. We see how the same attributes that drove Israelis to excel in innovation — ingenuity, agility and a willingness to take risks — make it a magnet for foreign governments, investors, and corporations. Long established in cybersecurity and fintech, Israel’s innovation ecosystem is now well-positioned to help tackle some of the major threats of our times.
Hundreds of companies are active in the fields of healthtech, agrifood-tech, and climatetech, helping provide solutions to problems all over the world. But Israelis can’t do it alone. Innovation cannot exist without collaboration: whether among scientists, entrepreneurs, companies, or countries. There’s no way of achieving any of our goals by working in independent silos. We look forward to the day that we can conduct business, design research programs, and exchange tourists with the hundreds of millions of people who live in countries we cannot yet visit or even call on the phone.
The Abraham Accords afford us the opportunity to show the value of those partnerships. They are a striking example of what we call Innovation Diplomacy — leveraging innovation as a frictionless channel to tackle shared challenges and achieve common goals. “The Abraham Accords are making the lives of people across your countries more peaceful, more prosperous, more vibrant, more integrated,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in his closing remarks of the Negev summit.
“They’re allowing governments to focus their energies and attentions on the issues that are actually affecting the lives of our citizens and making them better.” I applaud Mr. Blinken for his words and call on the US and regional leaders to build on the promise presented at the historic summit by developing a regional forum that focuses on finding technological solutions to our shared challenges. In his speech, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani stressed that together the participating nations were greater than the sum of all their parts.
“We need to establish genuine, sustainable coexistence and interdependence between participants, building genuine networks of cooperation and trust to advance our common security and prosperity. By doing so, we will demonstrate to the whole region what can be achieved by working together and show how, collectively, we can overcome shared regional challenges and seize opportunities in a way that would not – possible individually, he said”. In the interest of future generations, we must not waste any more time.
(Avi Hasson is the CEO of Start-Up Nation Central, a non-profit organization that addresses the Israeli innovation ecosystem’s most pressing needs and broadcasts its strengths to the world. Prior to that, he served in a wide range of private and public roles in the tech industry, including as Israel’s Chief Scientist. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Daily Tribune)