IDF prepares to ease travel restrictions in Bethlehem ahead of investor conference

The conference is the brainchild of Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad and Quartet envoy to the region Tony Blair.

roadblock 248.88 (photo credit: IDF [file])
roadblock 248.88
(photo credit: IDF [file])
The IDF is gearing up for the arrival of hundreds of Arab and Muslim businessmen from around the Arab world next month for an international investor conference in Bethlehem. The conference, which will open on May 21 and last three days, is the brainchild of Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad and Quartet envoy to the region Tony Blair. The goal of the conference is to bring Israeli, European, Arab, American and Palestinian businessmen together to examine investment opportunities in the West Bank and potential joint ventures in Palestinian industries. The conference, being planned under the slogan "You Can Do Business in Palestine," presents a number of challenges for the Israeli defense establishment, which has begun planning for the businessmen's arrival via Ben-Gurion Airport as well as the Allenby Bridge border crossing with Jordan. "We want to do everything possible to ensure smooth traveling for all the businessmen throughout Israel and the West Bank," a top defense official said Sunday. "The last thing we need is for people to get held up at checkpoints and for the conference to fail because of us." Businessmen from Gulf states - such as Qatar, Dubai and Bahrain - are expected to participate in the conference. Maj.-Gen. Yosef Mishlav, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, has held a number of meetings with his Palestinian counterparts to facilitate their transit between Israel and the West Bank. The Civil Administration plans to make a special lane at Checkpoint 300 - the main crossing between Jerusalem and Bethlehem - for the conference attendees. The Palestinian Authority hopes to use the conference to interest foreign investors in establishing businesses in two new industrial zones that are in the planning stages, with German and Japanese funding, in Tarkumiya and Jericho. The businessmen will be allowed to visit Israeli cities and industries throughout the three-day conference. In the coming days, the PA plans to issue tenders for the construction of an airport in Jordan that would be used by the Palestinians in the West Bank and would mainly service the two new industrial zones. The PA hopes the industrial zones will create tens of thousands of new jobs.