and the ringlets, the three men are unmistakable as they do not stop taking pictures with their mobile phones on the catwalk that leads to Ain Dubai, the still unfinished Ferris wheel that is announced as the tallest in the world.
Are you Israelis?
"Yes, yes," they reply in English.
They say that they have come to explore business opportunities and that they are delighted with the reception.
“They love us” (“
they love us
”), they declare in unison before adding that they feel “better treated than in some European cities”.
This is undoubtedly the message that the leaders of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) want to convey, the first Gulf country to establish diplomatic relations with Israel on September 15.
Even before the decree that exempts Israelis from visas comes into force, their presence has made itself felt in Dubai, the most glamorous of the seven principalities.
"It's like Las Vegas, in more luxurious", says one of the interviewed visitors who is exploring the possibility of organizing weddings here for his compatriots.
In the apparent official beginning of a beautiful friendship in the Middle East - after two decades of covert relations - more than 50,000 Israelis have booked their place to travel to Dubai, now without the need for a visa, on one of the 300 flights scheduled during the month of December, coinciding with the Hanukkah holiday or Jewish Festival of Lights, according to the Hebrew press.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport last Thursday to welcome the first commercial flight between the two countries, of the low-cost company Flydubai.
"It is the realization of a dream, because we are changing the history of the Middle East," was the repeated mantra of the president, who continues to praise his achievement as a statesman.
The first flight of the Israir company to Dubai took off this Tuesday from the Ben Gurion runways after Saudi Arabia granted it permission to pass over its airspace.
However, the assassination of a nuclear scientist in Iran last Friday, for which Tehran has blamed Mosad (Israel's foreign espionage), threatens to ruin, for security reasons, the first vacation in the Gulf for thousands of Israelis.
(suitable for Jews) that early Israeli visitors have enjoyed in Dubai, in puritan Jerusalem the first travelers from the United Arab Emirates (a delegation of businessmen) were greeted in October with boxes out of temper when They tried to access the Esplanade of the Mosques, the third holy place of Islam.
They entered through the Maghreb gate, which flies over the Wailing Wall, the only one controlled exclusively by Israel and reserved for non-Muslims.
The guardians of Waqf, the Jordanian foundation that manages the religious compound, vetoed them.
"If they come from the occupation side, they will not be accepted," warned Imam Ikrema Sabri, who usually leads Friday prayers in Al Aqsa, "here they have to ask the Islamic Wafq for permission.
The business fever unleashed between Israel and the Emirates since the normalization of their diplomatic relations was announced in August does not appear to have been clouded by the incident.
It is true that, in addition to commercial exchanges, the pilgrimage to the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Shrine of the Dome of the Rock is the greatest attraction for an Emirati to the Holy City.
The visit is now carried out with discretion accessing through the rest of the doors of the Esplanade.
It will not be easy to fill the 28 weekly flights agreed between the two countries (although they have 9 million inhabitants each, many of the almost 8 million foreign residents in the Emirates, such as Pakistanis, Iranians or Syrians, are prohibited from traveling to Israel ).
Business ambitions are also greater.
In just two months, cooperation plans have multiplied in various sectors, from medicine to finance, through sports and culture.
Technology, agriculture, water treatment, management of ports like Haifa's ... there is no area that escapes the accelerated race in Israel to put an economic pike in the Gulf.
The two main Israeli banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, have rushed to close deals with Emirates NDB and First Abu Dhabi Bank to channel the huge planned capital flow through local financial partners.
The sum of interests poses challenges of global scope.
The Dubai Diamond Exchange, where deals are closed for more than 17,000 million euros a year, has established contacts with the Tel Aviv Exchange, which negotiated another 10,000 million in 2019, in a move that may challenge the hegemony of the Antwerp diamond market.
The day after the establishment of ties was announced last August, a first strategic agreement was signed between the Emirati Apex and the Israeli group Tera to investigate covid-19.
From there, it has been a non-stop.
So far, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce has hosted 150 Israeli business delegations, including one from settlers from the West Bank.
The emirate's International Financial Center (DIFC), a special economic zone with its own courts, has announced the addition of the Israeli bank Hapoalim to its financial services network.
The central fruit and vegetable market already has a stall with Israeli products.
And there is even a plan to import wine from the occupied Golan Heights.
David Rosenberg, head of economics at the
, is skeptical of the commercial boom with the Emirates.
"The pandemic has greatly affected the economy of places like Dubai, highly dependent on tourism and logistics at a time of global disruption of the flight and supply chains," he says in an analysis published in his newspaper.
"The model of massive construction of luxury houses and shopping centers in skyscrapers seems to be coming to an end," he warns, "and therefore they seek the participation of Israel to develop its technology sector."
But even the Israeli Premier Soccer League is already on the target for Gulf investors.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Nhayan, a member of the ruling family in Abu Dhabi, has offered to buy half of the shares in Beitar Jerusalem.
The owner of the club, Moshe Hogeg, who will maintain a majority of control, has had to face the rejection of the most radical wing of the fans, the racist group La Familia, whose fans often chant slogans such as “death to the Arabs! ”.
Both countries seem to be living a honeymoon.
Everything is facilities for the new friend.
He has even opened the country's first
, a pop-up dining room at the Armani hotel in the Burj Khalifa.
The official effort to show tolerance begins to be cloying.
Not a day goes by without the local press reporting an Emirati studying Hebrew (with an Egyptian teacher) or encounters between Israelis and Emiratis at one of the city's tourist landmarks.
The selfies of nationals of both countries, with or without their respective flags, flood social networks.
Wars never solved anything!
From now on its peace love and respect 🇦🇪❤️🌍🇮🇱 @ABZayed @netanyahu @YairNetanyahu @HHShkMohd @MohamedBinZayed @DXBMediaOffice @Israelipm_ar @IsraelArabic @IsraelintheGulf pic.twitter.com/tUF7b8VPUF
- King Norah ♑😏 נורה (@thekingnorah) October 8, 2020
Perception can be misleading.
Not everyone is happy.
At least as many who support relations with Israel are critical of the measure, even if they do not express it, "warns Abdulkhaleq Abdulla.
This Emirati political scientist estimates that a third of his fellow citizens are in favor, a third against and another third doubt.
Despite the prevailing self-censorship in the country, Abdulla identifies with critics.
"Although I understand the needs and strategic imperatives of the Government of the country, as a citizen I am not ready for normalization," he confided to EL PAÍS.
“After 50 years considering Israel as a threat, as enemy number one, an apartheid state, a remnant of colonialism, racist with the Palestinians and that, especially in the last seven years, under the ultra-nationalist government of Netanyahu, has not stopped appropriating their land, it will be difficult to change your mind.
It is a malaise that has also been expressed by the Emir of Sharjah and privately trusted by citizens of other Northern Emirates (the five that with Abu Dhabi and Dubai form the federation).
Unlike Egypt or Jordan, the UAE never fought a war with Israel.
Still, since its independence from the British crown 49 years ago, this federation of principalities had endorsed the official Arab policy of not recognizing the existence of Israel until the occupation ended and there was a Palestinian state.
, however, has long since gone another way.
Although without formal relations, under the aegis of Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and
of the federation, the UAE has been finding a growing confluence of interests with Israel.
Both share mistrust of the Iranian nuclear program and rejection of Islamists.
In addition, the Emirati leader, determined to turn his small country into a technological powerhouse, sees in Israel not only a source of sophisticated security equipment, but a model.
"The UAE does not perceive Israel as an enemy," Sheikh Mohamed told US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns in January 2007, according to one of the diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks.
Already then the Emirates had accepted a visit from the American Jewish Organization, although it had to be canceled because it had been leaked to the press.
Emirati leaders have always preferred discretion.
This is how Israel opened a permanent mission to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi in 2015. Since then, the gestures of rapprochement have multiplied until the bell with the sudden announcement of this summer.
Arms race after the peace agreement
In the middle of a commercial and tourist feast, three dozen humanitarian NGOs and arms control groups this week alerted the United States that the sale of stealth F-35 aircraft, missiles and state-of-the-art drones to the Emirati Armed Forces, in a The $ 23 billion (€ 19.1 billion) contract, closed in the final stage of President Donald Trump's administration, threatens the military balance in the Middle East.
This rearmament contract is seen as a counterpart for the normalization of relations with Israel in favor of the Emirates, a country that actively participates in armed conflicts such as those in Yemen and Libya.
"The peace accords have perversely led Israel to an arms race with its new Gulf ally," warns Hagai Amit, an analyst for
Netanyahu rejected for several weeks that there was a link between the normalization of relations and the sale to the Emirates of fighter jets invisible to radar, which until now only Israel had in its possession in the Middle East.
The United States ensures that the Israeli Army has military technological superiority in the region, so the chiefs of the General Staff have rushed to request some of its most modern weapons from Washington.
In compensation for the sale of up to 50 F-35 fighters to the Emirati forces, Israel aspires to have the latest systems for the squadrons of these stealth aircraft that it already has deployed, such as laser-guided bombs.
It also wants to buy the most advanced model of the F-15 fighter, which the Pentagon has just received and wants the US to sell it first and with financial facilities the "invisible" version of the V-22, an ultramodern vertical take-off aircraft designed for special operations.