Photo Credit: Eitan Tal
Avi Zimmerman and Ashraf Jabari

A joint Israeli-Arab initiative aimed at advancing economic opportunities in Judea and Samaria was launched in Jerusalem on Wednesday with the objective of integrating economic planning and advancing joint entrepreneurship between Israelis and Arabs who live in the area.

The mission of the project, known as the “Judea Samaria Regional Development Financing Initiative” (RDFI) is being led by the Judea-Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JSC), an organization founded by Avi Zimmerman, an Israeli, and Ashraf Jabari, an Arab.

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“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.”

Through the RDFI, the JSC is attempting to help businesses in Judea and Samaria break through political and diplomatic obstacles businesses in the region face.

JSC has started a process of mapping out prospective partnerships and opportunities in various sectors 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. “The process that we launch today begins with developing an inventory of projects in the fields of tech, industry, tourism, environment, energy and infrastructure.”

“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,” he added.

Addressing the conference, Israeli Minister of the Economy Eli Cohen congratulated “all those who took part in organizing this important meeting here. Its fruits will be reaped in the economy through joint action.”

USIEA’s executive director Heather Johnston stated that in partnering with the JSC, the organization is doing what it can to help Israelis and Arabs in the region “seize upon existing opportunities to build a promising and sustainable economic future.”

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