JERUSALEM, Feb. 20, 2019—An initiative aimed at advancing economic opportunities in the West Bank was launched in Jerusalem Wednesday with the active participation and support of both Israeli and Palestinian business leaders. The mission of the project, known as the Judea Samaria Regional Development Financing Initiative (RDFI), is to integrate economic planning and advance joint entrepreneurship between Israelis and Palestinians who live in the West Bank.
Leading the initiative is the Judea-Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JSC), an organization founded on a partnership between an Israeli, Avi Zimmerman, and a Palestinian, Ashraf Jabari.
“The JSC, along with U.S. Israel Education Association (USIEA), initiated the Israeli Palestinian International Economic Forum that will promote business opportunities for all residents in the region,” said JSC cofounder, Avi Zimmerman. “The process we launch today begins with developing an inventory of projects in the fields of tech, industry, tourism, environment, energy, and infrastructure.”
Political realities on the ground, including anti-normalization policies of the Palestinian Authority and mobility restrictions from Israel’s security policy in the West Bank, have historically acted as barriers to economic progress. But through the RDFI, the Chamber and USIEA are attempting to help businesses in the West Bank break through or go around such obstacles. This achievement has started a process that is mapping out prospective partnerships and opportunities in various sectors in the West Bank.
“We must first create good links and good relationships not just in the West Bank but all over Israel so we can achieve our desired goal,” said Jabari, a businessman and community leader from Hebron.
The RDFI received the blessings and praises of Israeli Minister of the Economy Eli Cohen.
“The State of Israel is a country of innovation and technology,” Cohen said during his address at the forum. “There is a term we use called ‘Tikkun Olam,’ which means ‘repairing the world.’ We are trying to make the world a better place, and we use technology to make Israel a better place. I congratulate all those who took part in organizing this important meeting here. Its fruits will be reaped in the economy through joint action.”
USIEA and its executive director, Heather Johnston, are motivated to ensure that many such fruits be created.
“In partnering with the JSC, we are doing what we can to help Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank seize upon existing opportunities to build a promising and sustainable economic future,” Johnston said.
USIEA has played a leading role in informing members of Congress and officials in the White House of projects such as JSC’s. The USIEA has also succeeded in forging relationships between U.S. and Israeli officials as well as in bringing U.S. congressional delegations to experience Israel and the West Bank firsthand. More recently, USIEA arranged for U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman to visit the West Bank and Palestinian and Israeli businesses in the region.
Downloadable Video: The value of Palestinians and Israelis working together (courtesy USIEA)
Downloadable Video: Why the Israeli Palestinian International Economic Forum? (courtesy USIEA)
Downloadable Photo: Heather Johnston, U.S. Israel Education Association executive director, speaks at Wednesday’s forum alongside Ashraf Jabari, a Palestinian, and Avi Zimmerman, an Israeli, the two of whom are co-founders of the Judea Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry. (photo credit: Eitan Tal)
Alongside the process of charting potential opportunities, Zimmerman outlined the financial tools for such projects, which, he said, will “develop investments that will go toward these projects with two separate models: one is a short-term standard investment fund with a focus on enterprise, and the second is a long-term bond bank model with a focus on infrastructure investment.”
The financial tools and models will help with finding the best ways in which both populations of the West Bank can open doors and mutually take part in the immediate region’s continued economic development.
“We are taking Israeli-Palestinian business-to-business relationships to the next level with a strategic view to the future of the region. We’re creating the frameworks necessary to incentivize business investment, which will serve both populations,” Zimmerman explained.
The forum will continue on Thursday at the King David hotel in Jerusalem with the participation of dignitaries such as U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren and U.S. Senator James Lankford. There will also be a gathering and meeting between mukhtars and mayors from the West Bank.
About U.S. Israel Education Association
The nonprofit U.S. Israel Education Association offers U.S. officials unique insight into Israeli matters—especially in the West Bank—and connects regional and national leaders to advance mutually beneficial policies and laws.
The nonprofit Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry works to coalesce and promote the business community in the region through local, regional, national and international programs.
GRASSROOTS PARTNERSHIP AIMS TO BOOST ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN BUSINESS TIES
The two-day Israeli-Palestinian International Economic Forum aims to map potential West Bank partners in the fields of technology and industry, environment, tourism, and infrastructure.
Read the whole article here: https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Grassroots-partnership-aims-to-boost-Israeli-Palestinian-business-ties-581260
The Israeli-Palestinian International Economic Forum kicks off Wednesday, February 20, with an Economic Symposium – an entire day of top experts and business leaders in Israel presenting and evaluating business opportunities in four areas: Technology, Industry and Energy, the Environment, Tourism and Transportation, and Water and Waste.
Regional Development Funding Initiative
At the heart of these discussions is the Regional Development Funding Initiative, proposing investment opportunities for businesses, philanthropists and governments to accelerate development in the West Bank. The size and scope of these ventures have the potential to transform the region and provide economic benefits to all West Bank residents.
With many more registrants than anticipated by event planners, the audience will likely include a sizable contingent of Palestinian businesspeople, as well as an international delegation from the U.S., Canada, and Hong Kong, in addition to those from Israel.
Thursday, February 21 the Economic Forum focus will be on presentations by political and diplomatic leaders – from Israel will be Dr. Michael Oren, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. Representing the U.S. are Ambassador David Friedman and Senator James Lankford. Judea Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry founders Ashraf Jabari and Avi Zimmerman will also share their vision for the future of the region.
U.S. Israel Education Association is co-hosting and facilitating the first-ever Israeli-Palestinian International Economic Forum in Jerusalem together with the Judea Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JSC). The Forum will help accelerate a grassroots integrated business initiative that has been growing over the last eighteen months.
The West Bank is poised to emerge as the immediate region’s most innovative economy. The Jewish and Palestinian business leaders who founded the Judea Samaria Chamber are leading this initiative that seeks to normalize relations between Jews and Palestinians through joint economic ventures. Several ventures provide innovative models that demonstrate how it will significantly improve the quality of life for all people in this region by providing equal salaries, benefits, and advancement opportunities.
The International Economic Forum aims to take integrated business in the region to a whole new level. High-level Israeli, Palestinian, U.S. and international business leaders and government officials are pursuing shared objectives through this forum. The Forum will present and evaluate business opportunities in Technology, Industry and Energy, the Environment, Tourism, and Transportation, and Water and Waste.
There will be an extraordinary opportunity during the Forum to bring together the Palestinian community leaders (known as mukhtars). It will provide an environment for them to interact with each other and to respond to the Forum’s initiative.
USIEA Uniquely Positioned
USIEA is uniquely positioned to bring this forum together through connections with all of the participants. We are committed to facilitating the Economic Forum as a way to bridge political divides. It will help to build strategic relationships and provide a relevant perspective to leaders in the U.S. and Israel. The result will undoubtedly be lessening of tensions and will contribute to peace and stability through a grassroots, people to people movement.