Jerusalem witnessed the launch of a new economic initiative, aimed at advancing business opportunities in Israel’s Biblical heartland (Judea and Samaria) – and with the active support of Israeli and Palestinian business leaders.
The mission of the project, known as the “Judea Samaria Regional Development Financing Initiative” (RDFI) is to integrate economic planning as well as to advance joint entrepreneurship between Israelis and Palestinians who live in Judea and Samaria.
The initiative is based on an existing smaller-scale one – the Judea-Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JSC), an organization founded on such a partnership by an Israeli, Avi Zimmerman and a Palestinian, Ashraf Jabari.
“We are working on taking down borders, and both Israelis and Palestinians need to take part in this,” said Jabari, a businessman and community leader from Hebron. “We need to breach this wall. We must first create good links and good relationships not just in the West Bank but all over Israel so we can achieve our desired goal.”
It can be difficult for Palestinians and Israelis living in the Biblical heartland to circumvent these barriers – both because of the Palestinian Authority (PA’s) anti-normalization policies and restrictions as a result of the IDF’s security policy in Judea and Samaria.
“The JSC initiated in partnership with US Israel Education Association (USIEA) the Israeli Palestinian International Economic Forum that will promote business opportunities for all of the residents in the region,” said JSC co-founder, Avi Zimmerman.
“In tandem with that process, we are building the financial tools to be able to develop investments that will go towards those projects with two separate models: one is a short term standard investment fund with a focus on enterprise and the second a long term bond bank model with a focus on infrastructure investment,” Zimmerman added
The RDFI received the blessings and praises of Israeli Minister of the Economy, Eli Cohen. “The State of Israel is a country of innovation and technology,” said Cohen during his address at the forum. “There is a term we use called, ‘Tikkun Olam,’ which means ‘repairing the world.’ We are trying to make the world a better place, and we use technology to make Israel a better place. I congratulate all those who took part in organizing this important meeting here. Its fruits will be reaped in the economy through joint action.”