|Palestinian man walks through the market.(Photo by: REUTERS)|
Doing business – tangible peacemaking
By PAUL HIRSCHSON
Anyone interested in conflict resolution works to bring the sides together, people-to people, not just leadership teams negotiating.
The anti-Israel crowd is all gung-ho on assaulting Israel’s legitimacy. They
propose advancing this through imposing sanctions, calling for divestment and
implementing boycotts. Indicting Israelis for all sorts of supposed wrongs would
be the ultimate thrill, turning the individual Israeli into all of Israel,
facilitating the next round of assault. Isolation achieved, the undermining of
the very legitimacy of Israel, they argue, is feasible.
The Arab world
should consider what, if any, is the dilemma in engaging Israeli companies in
business. In the telecommunications sector, for example, where Israel is a
significant player, were the Arab world to encourage Israeli companies to bid on
tenders they would get better pricing and service from Israel’s competitors
across the globe. In the meantime they’re getting milked.
percent of the cost of every product can be attributed to the freight forwarding
component. Across the Arab world they import, from far-away places, products
which Israel can ship overnight by truck. Israel could reduce their cost by a
number of percentage points. The same is true in the opposite
I first visited Kuwait in 1995 and have traveled and worked
fairly extensively in the Arab world, including living in it for a few years.
The first real money I made was in business there on behalf of Israeli
Arabs profited as well: clients’ owners, managers and
technicians; partners, agents, distributors, others. That’s the way of
Business travel includes spending time at restaurants, coffee
shops, shisha bars and night life. Conversation inevitably diverges from the
business deal at hand, wandering off into politics, family, literature and, of
We came to know and understand, to befriend each other
beyond business relationships.
THOSE WHO propagate isolating and
boycotting Israel don’t know what they’re talking about. Or perhaps they see the
pursuit of conflict as their real objective.
Anyone interested in
conflict resolution works to bring the sides together, people-to-people, not
just leadership teams negotiating. Nurturing business between the sides is
making peace in the most real, tangible sense.
It’s time to stop playing
sport (as an analogy for a less savory activity?) and start doing
In sport one side has to lose while in business, when done
correctly, all parties win.
Where better a place to found a relationship
than in an activity in which everyone wins? For those of us interested in
conflict resolution, we should aspire to a situation where enough people on both
sides of the Arab-Israel conflict are heavily enough invested in business
together such that the process of understanding, which leads to reconciliation,
For those interested in burning bridges, rather
than building them, the route of boycotts is attractive. The Arab world and
Palestinians in particular should understand that these people will never
forgive them when we do reconcile, which we will.
A rational approach
leads to a simple conclusion: There is no dilemma. Nurturing business between
Israel and the Arab world is real peacemaking.
The writer is an Israeli
diplomat posted back home in Jerusalem.