JERUSALEM, Israel - Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum returned recently from a trip that would have been unthinkable even a year ago. She was in Dubai for the first meeting of the Gulf-Israel Women's Forum, a group whose existence is made possible by the recent signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
“Building peace does not happen overnight and building a warm peace is about people to people. It’s about business to business. That’s how you build trust,” said Hassan-Nahoum.
“That’s how you understand cultural differences and encourage those differences. And we’re just at the beginning of hopefully a very long beautiful relationship,” she added.
Hassan-Nahoum started the Gulf Women's Forum with Justine Zwerling, founder of the Jewish Women’s Business Network.
The forum aims to unite women from the Middle East in relationship, friendship and business.
Hassan-Nahoum said Israel and the UAE are the two most advanced economies in the Middle East and can offer mutual benefits to one another.
“I believe that the UAE can teach us so many things about infrastructural development, can be a hub and a gateway to the east for Israeli products and markets and I think that we can provide a lot in the innovation culture in problem solving technologies and in thinking about the future together as a region,” Hassan-Nahoum told CBN News.
Hassan-Nahoum said that she and Zwerling started the Women’s Forum because women are “natural peace builders.”
“I think women are consensus builders. We’re more empathetic. You know, we’re mothers, we’re sisters and I think that women have a bond. Women know how to network very well,” she said.
And they called it “Gulf-Israel Women’s Forum” because they want to leave room to include women from Bahrain and other countries that may want to join later.
Tourism and technology are two of the main areas where Israel and the UAE are likely to collaborate.
“People want to come and pray in Jerusalem,” Hassan-Nahoum said. (The Al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is the third holiest Muslim site.)
“So, there’s a lot of excitement. Israelis are dying to come to Dubai. Israelis love to travel,” she said.
“Secondly, of course, technologies that could work here, technologies that would solve agricultural and water issues here and Israelis who want to set up shop here in order to be in the logistical hub and gateway to the eastern markets,” she added.
Hassan-Nahoum noted that Jerusalem has a large Arab population and she foresees these ties with the Gulf States as beneficial to them.
“That’s part of the reason why I’m here. I think that the Arabs of East Jerusalem are a very natural bridge to the Gulf. We have a young, vibrant Arab speaking population -- 37 percent of our constituents slowly joining the prosperity of the start-up nation.
“I envision that East Jerusalem could be the R&D hub of the Middle East with the language and with the culture. Of course, they’ve been raised in the kind of atmosphere of the start-up nation and so they combine the culture. They combine the Israeli spirit of innovation and I think it could be a fantastic match and it’s good for the city. It’s good for the Arab population. It’s good for all of us,” she said.
Hassan-Nahoum said there was a lot of “positivity” and “excitement” in Dubai but she recognizes that there are cultural divides that need to be bridged. She said that Israelis are more “transactional” while Emiratis more about “building relationships and trust the old-fashioned way.”
“It’s something we have to build. It’s not going to happen overnight. But I think the desire from both sides means that we’ve started with a right foot,” she said.
Overall, she believes the agreements between the countries will be good for the region.
“One hundred years of conflict has gotten us nowhere. It’s just caused bloodshed and young people are dying for no reason because there’s a place for everybody here in this region and in fact, you learn how to work together and live together. It could be a superpower,” she said. “And I think that slowly, slowly people are beginning to realize this.”
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