Since Jewish immigrants began arriving in substantial numbers to what was then Ottoman Palestine during the late 19th century, a conflict between Israeli and Palestinian residents has raged. However, business leaders have stayed on the sidelines. For the most part, the conventional wisdom among private sector leaders was that a political settlement of the conflict would have to precede economic co-operation. Even if they had wanted to co-operate, the Israeli and Palestinian business communities were unconnected.
Yet in 2013, prominent Israeli and Palestinian business people came together to challenge the conventional wisdom. Under the auspices of the World Economic Forum, they announced the first prominent joint Israeli-Palestinian private sector group agitating for peace building initiatives, Breaking the Impasse (BTI). The goal of the group was to lobby political authorities to work toward a two-state solution. After an initial flurry of activities, however, the group foundered and the Palestinian representatives withdrew.
Nonetheless, a few private entities in 2018 were looking to bridge the divide even after the failure of BTI. Some like SodaStream were seeking to provide workplaces where Palestinians and Israelis worked side-by-side. While others like the Jordan Gateway project were looking to build enterprise zones on the border for manufacturing firms. Others sought to tap into the Israeli high tech boom. Sadara was a VC fund that looked to fund Palestinian high-tech ventures, while the founder of the Palestinian city of Rawabi was building a Palestinian tech hub that hoped to gain international credibility by first working with Israeli companies. There were NGOs focused on specific issues like EcoPeace that looked to attack environmental problems by enlisting the help of both Israelis and Palestinians.
All of these ventures faced similar pressures. There were political establishments on both sides working against co-operation. Was there any business model that could succeed in this environment? Were there lessons in the experiences of the leaders of these enterprises that could be shared and expanded upon? Would the success of these small ventures help pave the way toward a political agreement?
Published Date: 2018-11-16
Suggested Citation: Nicholas Strong, Greg MacDonald, Ian Shapiro, and Jaan Elias, "Israel-Palestine," Yale SOM Case #18-023, November 16, 2018
Keywords: Water, high tech, training, industrial park, private equity, world economic forum, SodaStream, Rawabi, Sadara, EcoPeace, Gaza, Jordan Gateway