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Israel and the Palestine Investment Conference

Fadi Abu Sada- Since we are still under the Israeli occupation, Israel has a certain level of control over the Palestinian Investment Conference.  It is expected that 100 Palestinian businessmen from the Gaza Strip to join the conference which will be held in Bethlehem in the third week of May. However, their participation, and the participation of a number of foreign businessmen and entrepreneurs is pending Israel’s permit.

The idea to hold an investment conference in Palestine started in late 2005, however, the latest developments, including Hamas’ electoral victory and the economic blockade imposed on the Palestinian Authority, by Israel, the United States and the European Union and all its consequences delayed holding such a conference. The idea was revived following the Donor countries conference in Paris in December 2007 and the conference will be held despite of the political situation in Palestine.

No doubt that the conference organizers are marketing Palestine in general and specially Gaza very successful way.  It is obvious that they are using very soft words describing the internal situation in Palestine.  This was clear when Dr. Hasan Abu Libdeh, director of the conference used the term, “negative dialogue”  among Palestinians hinting to the internal infighting which reached its peak in June of 2007, which led to a geographical and political split.

The organizers affirmed that they have put pressure on Israel to grant a respectful and dignified treatment for the foreign participants of the conference, thinking that the time of those people is precious so they can not stand in long lines on checkpoints and roadblocks.  In addition, mistreatment of those businessmen and investors may make them change their mind about investing in Palestine, and divert their attention to other locations, which will negatively affect investment in the country.

It is expected, that Israel will participate in the conference through some Israeli investors, however it will be clear in ten days from now.  On the other hand, one Arab country, which ahs not been identified publicly yet, has officially stated that it will not take part of this conference and will prevent its citizens and investors from participating.

The conference aims at attracting investors in six different sectors namely, Tourism, Finance, Agriculture, Information and Communication Technology, Infra Structure and Housing.

There will be some showcases of successful projects in Palestine and Gaza will have the lion share of the marketing strategy in an attempt to “Revitalize Gaza”.  Description of the past, current and future situation will be presented to attract investors to the Gaza Strip.

According to the organizers, invitations have been sent to more than 1200 investors, entrepreneurs, companies and individuals, around the world.  Around 670 hotel rooms have been booked in Bethlehem hotels hoping to be filled.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will attend a special political session in the conference while Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will attend another one, and preparations are underway.

We hope this conference will be a success and manage to attract the expected investments which could reach 1.5 billion US dollars to alleviate poverty in this region and lower unemployment and solve some of the economic problems specially that the Palestinian stock market was ranked number one in the Arab World.