Less than three years ago, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel were not on speaking terms when it came to official diplomatic relations. However, since the signing of the landmark Abraham Accords in September 2020, relations – and business – between the two nations have been booming.
Now, they have moved even closer with the announcement of the groundbreaking Crystal Ball initiative, launched by the UAE’s Minister of Cybersecurity, Dr Mohamed Al Kuwaiti in Tel Aviv during the recent Cyber Week conference.
This move cements a strong relationship between the two nations when it comes to fighting cyber criminals, and Crystal Ball is designed to detect and repel attacks.
The mission is to “design, deploy and enable regional intelligence enhancement” through collaboration and knowledge-sharing to combat national-level cyberthreats, according to Al Kuwaiti.
Tech giant Microsoft, Abu Dhabi’s CPX, and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are providing the technical infrastructure and expertise for the project, which will also be available for other countries to utilise.
“Cyberthreats do not distinguish between nations, do not distinguish between entities or people,” said Al Kuwaiti. “That is why we need to unite against those threats, and the Crystal Ball, that we are aiming for the whole community, will be the first step toward that.”
This collaboration is a significant step. With many countries concerned about their data sovereignty and security, it’s refreshing to see such open sharing of information and intelligence.
UAE and Israel working together to combat cyber attacks
Dr Al Kuwaiti highlighted exactly why the Crystal Ball project was needed when he talked about a recent distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack that was thwarted by both nations working together.
He also acknowledged the role that Israeli technology companies had had on the UAE’s digital transformation.
Also at the conference, which over the last eight years has become internationally acclaimed as one of the top cybersecurity events in the world, UAE-based EliteCISOs and Israel’s CyberTogether signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on knowledge-sharing, training and workshops to help fight cyber crime.
Increased economic activity between the two countries comes after the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) came into effect just a few months ago (April 1, 2023). The CEPA is designed to push UAE-Israel non-oil bilateral trade from the US$1.3 billion recorded in 2021 to US$10 billion by the end of the decade. There will be a focus on advanced technologies, energy, healthcare, and agritech.
The Abraham Accords were mediated by the United States, with the initial announcement of normalisation between Israel and the UAE. Four weeks later, a similar agreement was announced between Israel and Bahrain. Later that year, Morocco also joined the Abraham Accords.