JTA — Palestinian and Israeli business and political leaders met Wednesday to launch a joint economic initiative aimed at advancing economic opportunities in the West Bank.
The business leaders met at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, while Israeli mayors and Palestinian mukhtars from the West Bank got together the following day. There were about 100 participants each day talking about ways to advance business partnerships between Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs.
The Judea Samaria Regional Development Financing Initiative is being spearheaded by the Judea-Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry led by Israeli Avi Zimmerman, an entrepreneur from Ariel, and Palestinian Ashraf Jabari, a Hebron businessman, with assistance from the US Israel Education Association (USIEA).
Zimmerman said the process begins with developing an inventory of projects in the fields of tech, industry, tourism, environment, energy and infrastructure.
Jabari said: “We need to break the fence between Israelis and Palestinians and to know that there’s no other way but to work together. We can’t keep going like we have over 25 years and waiting for a political settlement. We don’t have time to wait for politicians.”
The USIEA has worked to build relationships between US and Israeli officials, as well as bringing US congressional delegations to experience Israel and the West Bank firsthand. Recently it arranged for the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, to visit the West Bank and Palestinian and Israeli businesses in the region.
Friedman praised the initiative, saying that while the United States is hoping to make “real progress” on the political process, “it is never a substitute or a means to delay the opportunity to provide a better future for the Jews and the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, who are entitled to the very same things that we all want for our families.”