Dubai, Oct 23. (AP): As Israelis and Arabs emerge from the war in Lebanon, a booming diamond exchange in this Arab country 2,100 kilometres away is hard proof that some Arab-Israeli ties have survived despite the region's tensions.
The two-year-old Dubai Diamond Exchange has put the Gulf emirate squarely inside a global business dominated by Jewish traders. And that, inevitably, means trade ties with Israel, another world diamond hub.
"There has been no visible platform for Arab-Jewish cooperation since the 1960s," said Chantal Abboud, Beirut-based representative of Antwerp's diamond industry in the Middle East. "Now, Dubai has created it."
Israel has peace treaties with only two Arab States, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Gulf, says Abboud, the Emirates is an exception as the only Arab country to allow Jewish diamond dealers to visit and trade openly, albeit on non-Israeli passports. Nearby Qatar also keeps discreet ties with Israel.
So far, the exchange's tax-free transactions have coaxed more than 250 diamond dealers to become members, including Jewish-Americans, Belgians, Indians – even Israelis with dual nationality, said Noora Jamsheer, the exchange's chief executive.
Traders say Dubai has less red tape and is closer to the expanding Chinese, Arab and Russian markets.
It also competes directly with Antwerp, serving as a gateway for India's burgeoning diamond output. For example, Rosy Blue diamonds, a leading Antwerp-based business, is considering moving its headquarters to Dubai, said Pearl Chandrawansa, who heads the company's Dubai operations.