Ever since the Oslo Accords of 1993, various attempts at segregating our populations have resulted in limited markets and heavily regulated trade.
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Few people know that Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank are working toward developing a paradigmatic economic development model of shared prosperity. All too often, the West Bank has been depicted as a region rife with conflict and war. For too long we’ve been told that Israelis and Palestinians can only operate with each other in a classic zero-sum game; that “the conflict” defines life in the West Bank and that top-down diplomacy is the only path toward making the region a better place for Israelis and Palestinians.
With all due respect to conventional wisdom, our experience as residents and businesspeople of this region has been quite the opposite. We see Israelis and Palestinians not as enemies but as neighbors; our prosperity and dignity as being the desired rhythm for everyday life; and the last quarter of a century of top-down diplomacy as an utter failure.
Ever since the Oslo Accords of 1993, various attempts at segregating our populations have resulted in limited markets and heavily regulated trade. These limitations have accumulated over time as a result of both Israel’s security concerns limiting accessibility between both populations, and the Palestinian Authority’s anti-normalization policies with Israel hampering the success and expansion of inter-population integrated business initiatives. Following the failures of diplomacy and the disappointment of unmet expectations, a groundswell of bottom-up progress is now the primary viable path forward.
The silent majorities among both populations do not value conflict. Unfortunately, our voices are rarely heard. Our innovators and entrepreneurs share an inspirational sparkle, a driving sense of purpose that conveys a readiness to overcome obstacles and take on the world. But there are circumstances when the obstacles are pervasive, when our innovators hit the same market-failure walls and the establishment systematically pushes back in what seems like an attempt to hinder opportunities for mutual growth. All things considered, despite the obstacles, market forces are pushing for a better tomorrow, and our newly coordinated efforts are poised to bear fruit.
Every day, 120,000 Palestinians work in internationally recognized Israel and another 45,000 work in Israeli-owned businesses in the West Bank. Additionally, there are 15,000 Palestinian businesspeople whose partnerships with their Israeli counterparts are central to their business models. Recognizing this current success and the latent potential for growth, we decided to develop a new framework for measurable productivity.
Avi Zimmerman is an Israeli businessman from Ariel. Ashraf Jabari is a Palestinian businessman from Hebron who co-founded the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry.