We are traders and I think there is a great marketing opportunity here. Don’t think of Dubai as a market of 9 million people – through Dubai we reach over 2 billion people.
Within an hour’s flight, there are 2 billion people in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Bangladesh and East Africa.
Our citizens are traders, what they know is how to sell.
Dubai has 50 million watches, do we need as many? Of course not, but as traders we know we will sell them to someone and quickly.
When we find ourselves in the conference room filled with chandeliers and soft carpets of one of Dubai’s hotels located on the famous PALM islands, which is also one of Ben Solim’s innovations, Ben Solim pulls out a business card in Hebrew.
From his appearance, it is difficult to guess that he is a central businessman and close to the government. He is dressed like everyone else in white dresses and flip-flops, and thin.
He has no particular manners and the day before our interview he arrives half surprised at a dinner of an Israeli business delegation and while they are eating and chatting among themselves without fully understanding who is standing in front of them.
It is only from the behaviour of the premises and the staff who stand up every time he enters the room that one can understand how Ben Sulim is in the internal hierarchy.
“When I visited Israel, I was amazed by the industry”.
Ben Sulim not only prepared the moment of the declaration of normalisation, but also knows Israel well. Anyone walking along Rothschild Avenue between July and October 2018 could have come across this little man with a moustache .
For Ben Sulim, the circumstances were not happy, his daughter, one of his three children, was suffering from a rare brain disease and the family came to Israel for treatment.
How did you come to choose Israel over all the other countries to treat your daughter?
“We tried everything, but at one point in the United States they said that only in Israel can treatment be continued at home,” recalls Ben Solim,
“We have been told that in Israel a special system has been developed which allows the disease to be treated by independent reconstruction of brain cells.
We arrived for the first time at a series of tests in Assaf Harofeh and after three months, when we had almost given up hope, they came back to us and told us they could help us. We lived in Rothschild Tower 1 between July and October and during this time I went to visit many innovation centres and I was amazed by Israeli industry,” Ben Sulim continues.
Ben Sulim took his children to the Peres Center for Innovation, where he also met Hemi Peres, the son of Shimon Peres and a founding partner of the Pitango venture capital fund. “The children were very excited,” he said.
“Especially in view of the development of Professor Hossam Hayek, 43, who invented nanotechnology to diagnose serious illnesses through the nose years before symptoms appear. I think he should be nominated for the Nobel Prize. “His daughter’s condition has improved considerably since her treatment in Israel, but Ben Sulim refuses to go into details.
Among the citizens of the emirate, there is a sense of admiration, especially towards the “founding father” Sheikh Zaid bin Sultan al-Nahin, the father of MBZ. But of course, the UAE is far from being a democracy, everything is directed from above.
The answer to the question as to what they think of it would be a barrier for business between Israel and the Emirates, it seems that Ben Solim has prepared in advance, like the business card in Hebrew.
“Our management is fortunate to have a courageous vision, the decision to sign the agreement with Israel was very brave and now there is no turning back. Albert Einstein said that if you do the same thing all the time, there is no reason to expect a different result. We have been trying to fight for years so we have tried differently.
Our countries and the whole region will benefit from these agreements. The agreement can not only change the status quo, but also bring us closer together.”
And what about checkpoints?
“I don’t see any barriers. Our leaders have a lot of respect for the citizens and the citizens believe in them because they see what they have done for them. Thirty or forty years ago there was a desert here and no electricity connection. It takes a lot of vision to develop the country so fast and do business. Sheikh Zaid says that when we export our last barrel of oil, there will be a great celebration in the country.
This means that we have to develop new industries, focus on renewable energies so that oil has no role. We are developing the country and cannot ignore the evolution of technology in the world.
Ben Sulim reveals another insight between Israel and the Emirates “although there have been no official relations between the two countries, extensive trade relations have been conducted under the radar”.
“The ships Zim and Royal Caribbean (controlled by the Ofer family, S.S.) have also been moored in our ports, including Dubai, for years,” he says. And soon containers from the United Arab Emirates will be in Israel.
Israel has an exceptional situation that will allow a short connection with the world. For example, the distance between Haifa and Baghdad is 900 km and on the other hand the distance between Basra and Baghdad is 600 km, there are obvious logistical advantages for Israel.
This domain is an excellent example, it is a domain that cannot be learned, one can only live it, experience gives mastery and Israel is an undisputed leader in this domain. “
When Ben Sulim speaks of Israel’s strategic location, he refers mainly to Haifa, which is logistically ideally situated to transport goods to Iraq and vice versa. During Britain’s reign in the region, this is exactly how it transported oil from the Middle East to Europe – via a pipeline that starts in northern Iraq at Karkuk and reaches Haifa.
Ben Sulim himself has no family ties to the Sheikh dynasty, but he knows them well and his career is deeply rooted in the history of the Emirates. He was born in 1955, even before the state was created, to a father who was a senior adviser to the Al Maktoum royal family and was even considered a childhood friend of the current ruler Muhammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum.
Young Ben Sulim was sent to study at a university in the United States and after graduating in 1970, he returned home and began working as a customs inspector in the then sleepy little port of Dubai. He suggested that if Dubai created a free trade zone, it would be convenient to move trade between India and Europe through it. Since then, dozens of free zones have been set up on his initiative, most of them in Dubai, which has contributed greatly to the growth of the world economy.
This is how the port of Jabal Ali was born in 1985, today considered one of the largest ports in the world, operated by the DP and managed by Ben Sulim for more than ten years.
According to Ben Sulim, the free zone is today responsible for 52% of Dubai’s GDP. DP, which employs 50,000 workers, manages 190,000 containers a day and 70,000 ships a year.
Until recently, DP was a listed company on Dubai’s NASDAQ, but a few weeks ago the country concluded a takeover bid and delisted the company in a deal worth $13.9 billion. 18% over the same period in 2019, but also posted a reduced profit of $333 million compared to a net profit of $753 million a year ago.
The port activity made Ben Sulim a well-known businessman in the country and when the government decided to develop real estate and hotel activity in Dubai in the mid-1990s, he was consulted.
On a significant scale. “In 1997, we started thinking about the development of tourism and the fact that we needed another stretch of coast, 70 kilometres instead of 7 kilometres,” explains Ben Sulim.
In collaboration with Sheikh Ben Sulim, the idea of artificial islands was formulated and the real estate company Nakheel was created to realise this ambitious project.
In 2001, the first island was inaugurated.
The idea of creating the palm islands propelled Ben Sulim to the summit and the sheikh placed him in the Holy of Holies .
But the 2008 crisis, which hit Dubai’s heavily indebted and real estate-dependent economy, exposed an $80 billion debt, largely owed to Dubai World and its subsidiaries, including Nakheel, headed by Ben Sulim.
The local economy almost collapsed. In the end, the richer sister country on which most of the UAE’s oil is based has helped Dubai out of the crisis.
From now on, Ben Sulim wishes to develop the port operation activity well beyond the handling of ships and containers. Recently, his long-time friend Shalit Dubai entrusted him with the creation of the largest innovation zone in the world.
As part of the ambitious plan called Dubai Future District, a bridge will link three central towers of the city and the state will allocate $270 million to support companies moving into the new complex. Part of the plan is to increase trade in non-oil products to $500 billion over the next five years.
The subject of innovation is no stranger to him. It was none other than Ben Sulim who, about a year ago, replaced Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, at the head of Hyperloop, a futuristic hovering vehicle designed to transport people and also goods. Ben Sulim’s PD funded the bulk of the project to design and streamline the supply chain that can lead to a significant reduction in storage space and shorter delivery times.
People who know Ben Solim say he has believed in economic peace for many years and has tried to use his influence with ruling families in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi to promote the movement that is taking place these days.
Some say that, like the invention of free zones and artificial Palm Islands, standardisation with Israel is also largely his invention. It is therefore not surprising to see that the first practical agreements are signed before him.
By the way, his son, who is president of the Greater Dubai Free Zone (DMCC), also signed a cooperation agreement this week with the Israel Diamond Exchange.
Source: Alliance Mag