Israeli companies ask Netanyahu for approval to attend Abu Dhabi's Idex defence fair

Israel's travel committee earlier refused to allow exhibitors to fly owing to strict Covid-19 curbs

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Organisers of the Israeli pavilion at Abu Dhabi's defence fair appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow companies to travel to the UAE in time for Sunday's event.

Nearly 50 Israeli companies were scheduled to appear at the International Defence Exhibition & Conference for the first time in its 27-year history.

But Israel closed its airspace nearly three weeks ago to slow the spread of Covid-19 and an exceptions committee denied the companies special permission to fly.

Work on the pavilion is at an advanced stage and exhibitors stand to lose a significant investment if Israeli authorities do not grant permission.

I do believe that the wheels are in motion and that, despite Covid-19 restrictions, we will attain the permission to fly and attend Idex

"We are not sure what criteria have not been meet on the part of the exhibitors, since the majority of them have already received the second vaccination and exceptions have been made to other Israeli citizens," Stacy Dotan, chief marketing officer of Avnon Group, told The National.

Israel Defence Exhibition promotes Israel's pavilion at Idex and is part of the Avnon Group.

"All the exhibitors have appealed against the decision and we believe they are exerting pressure to receive a positive answer," she said.

"The UAE and the Israeli exhibitors were very excited at the opportunity to officially visit the UAE and participate at Idex for the first time in history."

Media reports also said a delegation was due to travel to Dubai's Gulfood, which runs from Sunday to Thursday, February 21-25, but faced the same flight restrictions.

As major regional producers of food and drink, Israeli companies were keen to exhibit their produce for the first time.

Abu Dhabi Idex 2019 – in pictures

"We all stand to lose a lot of money that has been invested in exhibition space, stand design and all the other related costs," Ms Dotan said.

"So we sincerely hope that the decision will be reversed.”

Ms Dotan said her group had submitted a letter to Mr Netanyahu and was in contact with Israeli government officials to seek approval to fly.

"I do believe the wheels are in motion and that, despite Covid-19 restrictions, we will attain the permission to fly and attend Idex."

Idex is a biennial display of the most advanced military hardware, where deals worth billions of dirhams are usually sealed.

The February 21 to 25 edition will feature more than 1,000 defence companies over 35,000 square metres of exhibition space running through the 12 exhibition halls.

Idex is the Middle East's largest defence fair and Israel was to be among five new countries participating this year.

It will also be the first major in-person exhibition held in Abu Dhabi since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.

Strict measures are in place to protect public health. International attendees do not have to follow the mandatory 10-day quarantine in place in Abu Dhabi but all those coming from abroad are required to do a series of regular PCR tests.

Ms Dotan said people must arrive by Thursday if the pavilion was to be completed on time.

“If there are no exhibitors, there is no pavilion,” she said.

“We will be very disappointed to miss Idex and conduct important meetings that have been scheduled, but if it doesn’t happen we will continue to build our relationships in the Emirates and travel at the first opportunity.”