Courtesy of JNS. Photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO
sraeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (right) and UAE Ambassador Mohamed Al Khaja sign a customs deal in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 26, 2023

(JNS) Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja signed a customs deal on Sunday that paves the way for the countries’ free-trade agreement to enter into force.

“The taking effect of the free-trade agreement is important news for the Israeli economy, for the strengthening of ties with the UAE and is further testament to the importance of the Abraham Accords,” said Cohen in reference to the Trump administration-brokered agreements that normalized Jerusalem’s relations with four Arab nations.

The May 2022 free-trade agreement was the fastest-ever negotiated in Israel’s history, signed in Dubai some eighteen months after the countries established diplomatic relations. The agreement removes tariffs on ninety six percent of goods traded, ranging from food to jewelry to medical equipment. Other benefits include protection of intellectual property and, new to free-trade agreements, a promise to find ways for small and medium-sized businesses to profit from “commercial opportunities granted by the agreement.”

Last year, bilateral trade reached more than two point five billion (not including software and services), making the UAE Israel’s sixteenth largest trading partner.

“This historic agreement that has been signed with the UAE continues to bear fruit for the benefit of the people of both countries,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who attended Sunday’s signing ceremony.

“I am certain that we will be able to expand the circle of peace between Israel and additional countries in our region,” he added.

Netanyahu said last month that he was actively courting Saudi Arabia to join in the Abraham Accords, as that would constitute a “quantum leap” towards regional peace.

Israel is also currently working to expand the accords to four additional nations—Mauritania, Somalia, Niger and Indonesia.