(December 2, 2019 / JNS)
Before Thanksgiving break, officials on Capitol Hill were presented with a new economic model geared towards mutual prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria. Dubbed a “win-win” approach by its leading proponents and initiators, Israeli Avi Zimmerman and Palestinian Ashraf Jabari spoke about their vision to expand business partnerships between Israelis and Palestinians there.
Explaining the “Integrated Business Initiative,” Zimmerman said: “Our region’s economy is poised and positioned for untold success. We have spent the last two years developing an integrated business model that will bring shared prosperity to Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
The model and vision invite investors to make international capital investments into businesses and industries operating throughout Judea and Samaria that involve Israeli-Palestinian partnerships. It also aims to circumvent and avoid stumbling blocks and hurdles currently in place as a result of Israeli security measures and anti-normalization policies of the Palestinian Authority.
Zimmerman added that “we now embark on the implementation process by welcoming private and public investments to partner with the businesses that are generating impact for generations to come. Representatives from both Houses and parties were highly responsive, and impressed that we have already begun with strategic planning for private investments.”
In October 2017, Zimmerman and Jabari had both co-founded the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JS Chamber) to map out such market failures. The members of the JS Chamber currently include 250 Israeli business leaders with another 250 of their Palestinian counterparts.
When asked by congress representatives to respond to BDS activity against Israel, Jabari and another Palestinian member of the JS Chamber spoke of the harm that such initiatives could inflict on the chamber’s vision of cooperation and mutual prosperity, and also on individual Palestinian livelihoods as well.
Jabari, who runs the JS Chamber’s Department for Palestinian Development, noted that “our economy has been intertwined with Israel’s economy, and we have been working with our Israeli neighbors for 50 years. We are looking for a political solution, but in the meantime, we need to develop our economy so that Palestinians can prosper.”
Notably, 120,000 Palestinians work in internationally recognized Israel, while 45,000 Palestinians work in Israeli business operating in the West Bank. Another 15,000 Palestinians are business owners working on a model based on partnerships with Israeli businesses.
Officials on Capitol Hill and in the White House had recently become aware of the goals and aspirations of the JS Chamber primarily as a result of the U.S. Israel Education Association, an organization that seeks to better inform U.S. lawmakers about realities on the ground in Israel.
Its executive director, Heather Johnston said: “Just about everyone on Capitol Hill accepts and recognizes the unique relationship between the U.S. and Israel. It is critical that members of Congress and the Senate have a clear and all-encompassing picture of reality in Israel and how the country and its citizens relate to their neighbors. This visit by Zimmerman and Jabari to Capitol Hill not only introduces members of Congress and the Senate to a phenomenon that is not widely known about but also to untapped opportunities of advancing prosperity and stability in the Middle East.”
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