Israel's leading defense company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems signed an agreement to create a new joint venture with Group 42 to develop commercial artificial intelligence (AI) and “big data” technologies. This is important because they will establish a research and development center in Israel to serve global clients. It comes in the wake of Israel and the United Arab Emirates signing a peace deal last year. Rafael and Group 42 were already partnered to work against the coronavirus last year.
Rafael makes Israel’s Iron Dome and David’s Sling air defense systems. It also pioneers research on lasers and networked battlefield systems. It has sought to use artificial intelligence in applications and it is traditionally Israel’s leading research and development center with a plethora of cutting edge technologies. This makes it a good fit for Group 42, which is also a leader in artificial intelligence and cloud computing based in the UAE. Group 42 has offices in Israel now. Rafael was in the UAE in February during the defense confab called the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX).
The deal was announced on April 19. The UAE’s new ambassador to Israel Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khaja attended the signing in Herzliya in Israel, underpinning how important this is to UAE-Israel ties and innovation. G42’s Group CEO Peng Xiao and Rafael’s President and CEO, Yoav Har-Even also attended the event. The new venture, called Presight.AI, will establish a research and development center in Israel, “tapping into the local talent to spearhead the advancement of AI and Big Data technologies and their application across multiple sectors such as, banking, healthcare, public safety and others. The agreement is subject to regulatory approvals by Israeli and UAE authorities,” the companies say.
Al Khaja praised the endeavor. “The new JV between Rafael and G42 is not just two companies coming together, but a strategic collaboration that further strengthens the relationship between Israel and the UAE as the countries explore multi-faceted opportunities for bilateral economic growth.” The CEO of Rafael said that first and foremost the cooperation signifies another leap in the relationship between our countries. “It makes us all very excited to have such great partners in the Middle East, working together to make this region a better place.”
“The signing of the historic Abraham Accords last year has already enabled trade and investment across several sectors and is a testament to the many opportunities that lie ahead. We are still at the beginning of an exciting journey, and I look forward to more collaborations and bi-lateral agreements between our dynamic and innovative nations,” said Al Khaja.
Rafael has plowed investment into AI in recent years. “Through Presight.AI, we will unravel the immense potential embodied by the two companies, by synergizing with G42, to take our joint expertise and complementary capabilities to the next level. Rafael will continue to broaden its global cooperation, as we strive to expand into further fields, and establish similar partnerships worldwide,” said the head of Rafael. Peng Xiao said he looked forward to jointly developing new technological capabilities and business opportunities. “We’re very pleased to cement our relationship with Rafael and bring the best-in-class big data and AI solutions and services to a wide range of commercial sectors, in Israel, the UAE and internationally. This new JV, powered by the best minds in the industry, is destined to become a global force of innovation.”
This matters because the deal has larger ramifications. It can improve the abilities of both companies and countries in the banking and healthcare sectors. It could play a particularly useful role in using AI to combat future pandemics, as well as continuing to deal with the existing one. It is a key economic dividend of the new relations made possible by the peace accords. G42 has been a pioneer in working with Israeli companies. G42 wants to make advances in various realms using new technology.
Overall, this is part of the growing partnerships between Israel and the UAE, including deals formed from recent conferences such as IDEX and also the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) last year, and during cyber events taking place in the spring and summer of 2021. Where this is leading is already clear in the Eastern Mediterranean. The UAE and Israel sent top diplomats this month to Cyprus to meet with their Cypriot and Greek counterparts. Israel and the UAE also took place in a military drill in Greece and Israel and Greece signed a massive multi-billion dollar defense deal in April 2021. On top of this Israel is working with Greece and Cyprus on a new pipeline and the UAE is increasingly active with Egypt in discussing regional stability. New economic relations are part of this web of relationships.
Seth J. Frantzman is a Jerusalem-based journalist who holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis and a writing fellow at Middle East Forum. He is the author of After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East (Gefen Publishing) and Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machines, Artificial Intelligence, and the Battle for the Future (Forthcoming, Bombardier Books). Follow him on Twitter at @sfrantzman.