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A billionaire from Turkey, whose relations with Israel have gone from bad to worse until last week’s attempt by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to end the crisis over the May 2010 flotilla clash, is to serve as the chairman of the new the Jerusalem Arbitration Center (JAC), set up to settle disputes between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

Billionaire Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, who is president of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey, is close to the Turkish president and is one of the most important figures in the country’s economy.

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Palestinian businessman Munib al-Masri. Hisarcıklıoğlu, who has ties with the Turkish government, flew to Israel in his private plane Thursday to take part in the inauguration of the new center, Globes reported.

The center will operate under the auspices of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), whose Israel chairman Oren Shachor worked with al-Masri to establish the JAC.

“I am excited to have been chosen unanimously by Israel and the Palestinians,” Hisarcıklıoğlu said today.

Shachor told Globes that the JAC “will bolster trust between the two peoples and will represent an economic bridge. Today, most of the commerce between Israelis and Palestinians is conducted in cash, for fear of loss of the proceeds of deals because of the political situation. Now, with the two sides benefiting from the ICC’s sponsorship, and with a commitment from the Palestinian Authority to enforce the new arbitration center’s decisions, it will be possible to introduce these understandings into any future agreement between us and the Palestinians.”

Shachor said that the election of Hisarcıklıoğlu as JAC chairman is not connected with Netanyahu’s apology to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the flotilla clash. Erdogan later demanded that Israel follow up with compensation and removing the ban on maritime traffic to Gaza to prevent Hamas from freely importing weapons for terror.

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