Israeli-Palestinian Business Council to push 'reason and dialogue'

Leading Israeli and Palestinian businessmen and women met in Jordan on Friday to launch the "Israeli-Palestinian Business Council," which they said aims to bolster "reason and dialogue" and "economic revitalization" and to press politicians to end the conflict. Amos Shapira, the CEO of Israel's Cellcom cellular phone company who is co-chairing the initiative, said 67 prominent business figures had signed up for the project so far. "We want to use the business connection to create momentum and put pressure on politicians from both sides to make progress," he said. The initiative is being championed by the World Economic Forum, and was formally introduced by the WEF's Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab at the weekend's WEF Middle East conference in Jordan. The council seeks to "advance the relationship between the two business communities and, ultimately, assist the region to move towards durable peace and coexistence," it said in a press release. While Shapira spoke more generally about a need to "open bottlenecks" and not "give up," the Palestinian co-chair, Walid Najjab, cited specific imperatives including an "end of occupation" and "siege." Both sides need a "sense of mutual respect" and of hope for a "better future," said Najjab. If not resolved, he said, "this conflict will eat us alive." Palestinians involved in the project said those who had signed up on their side favored a two-state solution, featuring an independent Palestine alongside Israel in its pre-1967 borders.