Shalom provides NIS 1m. for business mediation center

Jerusalem initiative will provide alternative to court system.

Business Mediation Center 311 (photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
Business Mediation Center 311
(photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
Deputy Prime Ministry Silvan Shalom announced a NIS 1 million grant for the Jerusalem Arbitration Center on Tuesday, two days after Palestinian and Israeli business leaders announced the initiative to create a mediation alternative to the courts for settling business disputes.
Shalom announced the funding during a meeting with John Beechey, the chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce International Court of Arbitration.
“The purpose of the initiative is to provide protection for Israeli businessmen who are left without any recourse when they are caught up in business disputes with Palestinian businessmen,” Shalom said in a statement. “This initiative will provide a measure of security for Israeli businessmen vis-a-vis businessmen who reside within the areas controlled by the PA, by reducing the business risks.”
In arbitration, both sides meet face-to-face with a trained mediator. Arbitration is usually less expensive and faster than litigation in the court system, but the decisions are legally binding and internationally enforced, just as a court decision would be.
Arbitration is also confidential, as opposed to court records, which are available to the media and the public.
The head of the Palestine Chamber of Commerce, Munib Masri, was ecstatic upon hearing the news in Cairo, where he was attending the Hamas-Fatah unity negotiations. “It’s so great, it’s so excellent,” he said.
“But now we need to find a Palestinian, from the government or from the business world, hopefully from the government, who will do the same thing.”
Officials declined to say how much money they need to raise to launch the Jerusalem Arbitration Center, which will be overseen by the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Court of Arbitration.
On Sunday, a memorandum of understanding about the project was signed by the heads of the Israel and Palestine Chambers of Commerce, as well as the head of the International Chamber of Commerce, and Beechey, who oversees the ICC’s arbitration courts.
The center could be launched as early as February 2012, but only if there are no delays in choosing and training the mediators, or in agreeing on enforcement, among other issues.
“I intend, in my meeting with the Palestinian prime minister [Salam Fayyad], to make the subject of enforcement a pre-requisite for the success of the Arbitration Institute,” Beechey said during the meeting with Shalom.
Beechey left to meet with Fayyad directly after his meeting with Shalom.
Shalom is also the head of the Ministry for Regional Cooperation, which focuses on developing economic cooperation with the Palestinian Authority as well as Jordan and Egypt. Other major programs of the ministry include the rehabilitation of the Jordan River and the Qasr al-Yehud baptism site, and developing a regional emergency services system.
The idea for an arbitration center to solve disputes between Palestinian and Israeli businesses was first conceived in 2009, though “Palestine” did not become a member of the International Chamber of Commerce until 2010. There is an estimated NIS 20 billion of trade between Israeli and Palestinian businesses each year, according to Maj.-Gen. (res.) Oren Shachor, the chairman of the Israel Chamber of Commerce, a 33-year IDF veteran who was involved with the Rabin-Arafat peace negotiations.
Shachor and Masri will work together to launch the Jerusalem Arbitration Center.
Israel already has arbitration courts to settle business disputes, but the courts only operated inside Israel. This will be the first alternative for businesses to settle disputes outside of the Israeli court system, which many Palestinians perceive as biased.
The Jerusalem Arbitration Center will be located in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem. The center will initially open in the Alhambra Palace building across the street from the Justice Ministry, and move to larger premises as the center expands.