Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs visited the Dead Sea region during a previous tour. (Judea-Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry) Judea-Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Israeli Palestinian business leaders

Seeking to build on the recent US-led Bahrain economic workshop, Israeli and Palestinian business leaders toured the Dead Sea region.

By Jonathan Benedek

Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs toured the Dead Sea region on Tuesday with hopes of building upon the seeds for mutual cooperation planted during last month’s “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop in Bahrain.

Participating in the tour was Avi Zimmerman, founder and president of the Judea-Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JS Chamber); Ashraf Jabari, Palestinian businessman and co-founder of the JS Chamber; Arie Kohen, head of the Dead Sea Scrolls Regional Council; Orit Hershtig, director of the regional council’s tourism and culture branch, and a number of local Israeli and Palestinian business leaders who ventured out to explore multiple options for cooperation in the fields of trade, agriculture and tourism.

Throughout the course of the day, the delegation visited the Beit HaArava plant, the Kalia beach, the Minus 430 Gallery and the Moroccan restaurant, “Biankini,” which is located on the nearby Biankini Beach.

“We are engaging with numerous business models that expand cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian business communities,” Zimmerman said. “Here there are opportunities for thriving Palestinian industries alongside Israeli prosperity. The unique gallery hosts festivals and art events, which appeal to foreign tourists and to audiences of Israelis and Palestinians. Dina Dagan’s restaurant is a meeting place for all residents of the region and, in the future, visitors from Gulf countries.

“We thank all those who have helped make this tour happen as well as those who are leading strategic collaborations with the JS Chamber. Arie Kohen is an example of a regional council mayor who shares our future vision and takes practical steps to pave the way towards mutual productivity,” he added.

“The meeting today is a direct continuation of the economic workshop in Bahrain as well as the continued efforts of the JS Chamber to promote cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian business leaders,” said Jabari. “Meetings like the one that took place today give us the ability to expand our practical measures and our joint business ventures in the region.”

“The Dead Sea Scrolls Regional Council is located in an area that is a bridge between countries, cultures and religions. We are proud to be an international region, enabling real partnerships in tourism, employment and commerce. We will promote every initiative that will connect to the vision that we live every day,” Kohen said.

Threats from the Palestinian Authority

The tour took place less than a month after the US-sponsored “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Bahrain, where Jabari led a delegation of over a dozen Palestinian entrepreneurs who sought to discuss ways of advancing business opportunities for the Palestinian population.

The Palestinian delegation’s members received a litany of threats for violating the Palestinian Authority’s boycott of the workshop. Upon their return, one of them, Saleh Abu Mayaleh, was arrested and released only after US pressure. PA policemen arrived at the house of another participant in the delegation who has since been in hiding.

The first Israeli-Palestinian Economic Forum was held in Jerusalem in February of this year, organized jointly by the US Israel Education Association and the JS Chamber. Israeli regional heads of council and dozens of Palestinian mukhtars from the Palestinian-administered areas of Judea and Samaria participated with the intention of promoting cooperation at the local and municipal levels.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who addressed the forum, said that “political solutions are important, but pieces of paper are not creating peace. Relations create peace, investments create peace, friendships create peace. This is the peace that will last, that is sustainable.”