(photo credit: Ariel Jerozlimski)
Strengthening Israeli-Palestinian economic relationships will create a strong foundation for peace, Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.
"There is an important future for the Palestinian economy," he told Israeli, Arab and foreign business people at the STEP Jerusalem Wealth Management Conference in Jerusalem, which was held in conjunction with Fortress Capital Management and Anglo Capital Ltd. "I urge you to invest in the Palestinian economy and in the Israeli-Palestinian economic relationship. You will not regret it."
After speaking with Quartet envoy Tony Blair, Netanyahu said, he felt Israel could lift some bureaucratic obstacles to the Palestinians without compromising security.
"The Palestinians should understand that they have in our government a partner for peace, prosperity and rapid economic development," Netanyahu said. "An Israeli-Palestinian economic relationship is a strong foundation for peace.
"The economic track is not a substitute for political negotiations - it is complimentary."
Speaking on the panel "Investment into the Palestinian Economy," Dr. Oussama Kanaan, chief of the International Monetary Fund mission and resident representative for the West Bank and Gaza, said restrictions of access and movement of people and trade were the main impediment of private-sector growth.
"We were very encouraged by the words of Netanyahu that a new government views private-sector development within the Palestinian economy as an important objective," he said. "Relaxation of restrictions would enable internal and external trade."
Kanaan commended the cooperation between the Finance Ministry, the Bank of Israel and their counterparts in the Palestinian Authority over the past two years.
"However, for business people to be able to invest in the Palestinian economy, the uncertainty of access to markets needs to be reduced," he said. "Investors need to know the rules of the game: how and when they can access markets; for example, if they can get goods from Ramallah to Nablus."
Netanyahu said the local economy could emerge from the global economic crisis in good shape, just as it became robust after the recession six years ago when he was finance minister.
"I believe that we can outperform the global economy," Netanyahu said. "We are committed to enable rapid economic growth by endorsing the necessary reforms."
Meanwhile, Barclays Capital Israel economist Joseph Wolf on Wednesday praised the resilience of the Israeli market and economy.
"The Israeli market's defensive nature has continued in 2009," he said in a note to investors. "This is reflected by the year-to-date returns, which show that the TA-100 has provided one of the best returns globally.
"This performance highlights the resilience of the local market, which has withstood the geopolitical pressures of a war in Gaza in January and elections in February. The lack of impact from the elections is particularly telling. We see this as supporting our long-held belief that the local market tends to look through political and geopolitical events and focus on economics."