Four members of Breaking The Impasse, a group of Palestinian and Israeli business people, came to the Jerusalem Press Club on Monday to explain the benefits to the region if peace is attained and two states lived side by side with mutual respect and cooperation.
Some 200 Israeli and 150 Palestinian business people and civil society leaders have been in long-term dialogue to support political leaders in their aim to reach a two-state solution to the conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people.
The four members who came to speak were Jerusalem-born Kamel Husseini, the managing director in Ramallah of Portland Trust and the founder of Ellam Tam, the first communications and public relations company in the Palestinian Authority; Oded Gera, a seventh generation Israeli and vice chairman of Rothschild Israel; Australian-born Gary Leibler, the managing director of the Shavit Capital Fund who served as an officer in the IDF; and German-born Stefan Borgas who came to Israel two years ago and is president and CEO of Israel Chemicals.
Borgas said: “No one of my generation believed that Germany could be reunified,” adding that some courageous politicians decided to collaborate and this led to people-to-people contact – and the rest is history.
Borgas said he was convinced that if implemented, the two-state solution will stabilize the region, facilitate travel and business exchanges and open up the Arab world to Israel. It will create new opportunities for all the countries in the region, he said.
Including his colleagues in his remark, Borgas said: “We’re all together because we see the potential.”
Husseini, who was in the secret pre-Oslo talks at the home of Shimon Peres, said that many joint Israeli- Palestinian business deals are undercover “but this is not what business is about. Business is about transparency.”
Gera said that there is a lot of commerce between Israel and the PA, and Israel and Gaza, but said that there is resistance on the part of Palestinians to doing business overtly with Israel “because that leads to normalization, which leads to another status quo.”
Many of the early meetings between the Israelis and the Palestinians took place in Turkey and Geneva, but they were also held in safe houses in Israel and the PA, said Leibler, commenting that he had been to people’s homes in Jericho and they to his in Jerusalem. “It leads to dialogue,” he said.
Leibler and his three colleagues said that the Breaking The Impasse people have met individually and as a group with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as with politicians on both sides of the divide.
They’ve also been to Davos, where they spoke behind closed doors to people of influence. They’ve encountered support and skepticism.
“Our challenge is much greater because of extremists on both sides,” he said.