“Israel-Palestinian cooperation a decision that makes sense from the economic point of view”
Also available in Deutsch
After an 18-month initial phase, the Israeli-Palestinian Business Forum (IPBF) has been able to present the first fruits of its work to 120 visitors at the Konrad Adenauer Conference Centre: a business guide, in Hebrew and Arabic versions, for everyone interested in undertaking cross-border business between Israel and the Palestinian Autonomous Territories.
While the IPBF will give a detailed presentation of its work in Tel Aviv on October 29, 2008, this conference was the prelude to the presentation of existing Israeli-Palestinian models of success.
The idea of the IPBF was first worked out in 2007 together with experts from the worlds of economics and politics at the KAS Education Centre in Cadenabbia. The basic idea is to use shared – in this case, economic – interests so that the two sides can come closer to each other. Participants also had in mind the idea that cooperation must also pay: “Peace has to pay,” as one participant said.
Numerous organizational and bureaucratic obstacles had to be overcome before the forum could actually be set up. The IPBC is the first organization run jointly by Israelis and Palestinians to assume the tasks of a chamber of commerce: by providing advice and direct contacts to the other side, the founding of new businesses is promoted, and support is provided to existing ones. Small and medium-size businesses have special needs for assistance, since it is very hard for them to provide people who can deal with the special difficulties of Israeli-Palestinian trade based on the political situation, when such things as permits are involved.
Despite the difficult political situation and the adverse initial conditions, there are successful business models which demonstrate the advantage of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. A number of such models were presented at this conference: Abu Ein Group, Asal Technologies, Canaan Fair Trade, Medipharm, G.ho.st, Nuvoton, and Olives of Peace.
The software branch in particular can demonstrate convincing reasons in support of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation: “From the economic point of view, it makes sense to decide in favor of cooperation,” said a representative of a software developer as he opened his presentation. He went on to make the point that young Palestinian university graduates are highly motivated to contribute their knowledge and ability: this is what they have obtained from professors who have completed their own training abroad and have state-of-the art knowledge of the field. As a result of the Internet, working with Israelis is no problem. For the few physical meetings which are needed, entry permits can be obtained; meeting on a daily basis is not required. There are a number of reasons for encouraging the joint development of software with Palestinians (as opposed to outsourcing with India or China). These include being in the same time zone (and hence having the same work time, which can therefore be used in full), familiarity with the other side’s mindset, and physical availability (which is also an important point of view when it comes to putting the team together). A PowerPoint presentation helped convey these points to the audience.
An innovative idea on the software market is G.ho.st (the Global hosted operating system). This gives users Internet-based access to their Virtual Computer. The firm’s CEO, Zvi Schreiber, used the Adenauer Centre’s Internet connection to show how he can log on to his computer, which window he opened most recently, and so on. The advantages of such a system are self-evident: it makes it possible to access one’s own computer from anywhere in the world which has an Internet connection, without having to physically carry a machine around. The software for this project has been jointly developed by Israelis and Palestinians.
In the agricultural area, there are also successful cooperation models, such as the Olives for Peace company. Olive oil is produced with the same equally matched participation of Israelis and Palestinians. This product can be successfully sold on a highly competitive market with the “added value” of a joint Israeli-Palestinian product. A representative of the company said, “The fact that this product was produced on a 50-50 basis by Israelis and Palestinians is our market edge. For many, this is a reason to buy the product.”
The “win-win” formula is a successful concept for overcoming Israeli-Palestinian tensions. One of the goals of the IPBF is to increase such projects and overcome obstacles. Issues that cropped up the discussions have already been put on the IPBF’s agenda. For example, the IPBF wants to try to have a BMC (businessman’s card) issued for the hi-tech area, that will guarantee free movement for the cardholder between Israel and the Autonomous Territories. The more economic cooperation exists between Israelis and Palestinians, the greater are the chances of stability in this region.
Israel, October 26, 2008