As Peace Between Israel and Palestinians Nowhere Near, Joint Project Aims at Defrosting Ties
05:13 GMT 05.08.2021 (Updated: 04:25 GMT 06.08.2021)
Joint Tech serves as a bridge between Israeli entrepreneurs and Palestinian developers. Apart from giving both sides an opportunity to earn money, the initiative is also sending a message of peace and attempts to fight hatred and prejudices.
The past several weeks have seen a revival of activity on the Israeli-Palestinian front.
King Abdullah of Jordan met separately this month with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and US President Joe Biden.
He also placed a number of calls to regional leaders, including Israel's President Isaac Herzog, his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
Peace Starts from Grassroots
However, despite these efforts, direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians are nowhere in sight, which prompted some to take matters into their own hands.
Gilad Israeli, one of the founders of the NGO "Arabs with Israel" that promotes the integration of Arabs into Israeli society, has recently launched an initiative that brings together Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Joint Tech is the first initiative that unites Israeli and Palestinian developers, who do consulting and work together on a variety of projects including market places, e-commerce, native, hybrid apps, algorithms and more.
"I came up with the idea after holding a number of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, and I realised how many obstacles they were going through to promote trade between the two parties."
Palestinians willing to work in Israel need to get a special permit to do so, a process that might take weeks. They also need to go through a security checkup at the crossing that connects the West Bank to the Jewish state.
Joint Tech manages to overcome these obstacles by connecting Israeli entrepreneurs, company managers and owners with the Palestinians virtually, although they also arrange direct meetings where parties meet and exchange ideas.
Israeli brands his project as a mixture that aims to promote peace between Israelis and the Palestinians but also as an opportunity for both sides to make money.
"The entire world is now heading towards virtual networking. In the West, firms approach East European companies and those in the Far East to reduce costs, and we wanted to do the same by offering [Israeli and foreign] clients an abundance of high-quality Palestinian labour."
The Palestinian economy has been experiencing serious challenges in the past couple of years. Partially it was due to the fact that a number of international donors cut their generous financial assistance. Partially, it was because of the outbreak of the coronavirus that caused the PA leadership to shut down public offices, institutions and private businesses, moves that deteriorated the already fragile economic conditions.
This is why an initiative that offers jobs to the Palestinians of the West Bank, where unemployment rate in 2020 stood at almost 15 percent, is considered bliss. However, Israeli says that he is still facing stigmas and prejudices.
"I have seen Israeli clients, who told me that they would not want to employ Palestinians [because of the blood that has been shed during the decades' long conflict]. But the majority of Israeli entrepreneurs don't really care about religion or origins. All they want is quality work. Others even see it as an opportunity to bring the two nations together."
On the Palestinian side, he is also dealing with hardships and fears. In an area where Israel is considered an enemy and where collaboration with the Jewish state is often viewed as a betrayal that needs to be punished, many Palestinians refrain from interacting with the other side.
Hope for a Better Future?
Israeli is well aware of these obstacles. He knows to keep the names of those who work for him strictly secret. But he hopes that in the future the relations between the two sides will defrost and peace will prevail.
A 2016 poll indicated that the nations might soon be moving in that direction. According to that survey, more than 50 percent of Israelis and Palestinians supported a two state solution and wanted to end the decades-long conflict.
"In the past one hundred years since the establishment of Zionism, Jews and Arabs have gone through a lot of conflicts and confrontations. But we also kept living side by side and kept working together. Politicians are often an obstacle but the people on the ground want a change, and we hope to achieve it through Joint Tech."