Paltel to get first conference invite

Israel Telecom confident security clearance will be granted to PA firm

Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel will receive an invitation to Telecom Israel 2006 for the first time, after being refused entry to Israel for the event in the past due to difficulties in obtaining the necessary permits. "We tried every avenue for the last exhibition but for security reasons were turned down," said Moshe Lilos, Manager of Kenes Exhibitions, one of the organizers of the event. "This year things are different in the post Arafat era, and we feel we have a better chance of getting the Palestinian delegation there." Palestinian businessmen wishing to come to Israel need to apply for permits from the District Coordinating Office of the civil administration for their region. Smadar Shapira, Director of the Business and Economics unit at the Peres Center for Peace said that her experience in bringing Palestinian business delegations to Israel has been met with general success. "It depends on the political climate and security sensitivity at the time," she said. "Inabilities to get across to Israel have always been related to a general security closure and not because of an individual applicant's profile." Generally the application is made approximately 10 days in advance of the event and that in a good case scenario, the permit is granted two or three days before it takes place, while sometimes they receive it on the eve of the meeting, she added. Kenes' Lilos said the organizers plan on approaching the Peres Center for help in the application process but that he believes the most effective route will be for the Communications Minister to send a letter of invitation to its Palestinian counterpart requesting his participation in the event. "We will ask the new minister to send out invitations to all ministers of communications, when a permanent minister takes office," Lilos said. Tourism Minister Avraham Hirschson has taken on the Communication portfolio until the March 28 election, following the required resignation of Dalia Itzik when she left the Labor Party to join Kadima. The exhibition is scheduled to take place November 6-9 and is expected to host delegations from over 40 different countries, including approximately 30 Ministers of Communications. "The biggest benefit to the Palestinians in attending this year's exhibition will be the opportunity to network with foreign companies and investors," Lilos said. "There are also possibilities of working with Israeli companies." The organizers will arrange a special bus to transport the delegates to the exhibition, he added. Shapira, meanwhile, stressed the importance of the permits for furthering business cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. "In the last year, and particularly after disengagement, there has been a growing willingness from Israeli companies to do business with the Palestinians," Shapira said. "Israelis can't go into the Palestinian areas, so any connection between the two depends on the permits. They cannot meet without them." Telecom Israel was started in 1994 and is being organized by Kenes Exhibitions and the Israel Trade Fairs & Convention Center. This week, British Telecom accepted an invitation to participate in the event.