The Potential Power of Peace
But imagine business without these extra precautionary measures and nuisance. Imagine business with the potential power of peace.
The hurdles to leap are higher than ever. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems like the reluctant bachelor who does not want to commit to marriage. The phrase “two-state solution” seems to be the no-go zone for him. It seems unlikely at this juncture that citizens of Iran will swing to the center during their mid-June elections. And Hamas and Fatah seem just as far apart now as they were when they first sat down for talks in Cairo.
However when I posed the idea of all those elements coming together to a senior advisor to King Abdullah II of Jordan, he quickly replied that the payoff would be “huge”. Barriers to movement, barriers to business and barriers to peace would tumble. Iran would find it difficult to play the role of spoiler if a two-state solution took hold. Imagine a world where Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt all read from the same page.
In an interview with Gamal Mubarak while at the Dead Sea for the World Economic Forum, the Egyptian President’s son urged Israel not to go back in time.
“If we are going to be held hostage every couple of years after a change in government, on either side, that decides to start all over again, that decides to say, you know, ‘I'm not going to be committed to what has been agreed to before and let's start all over again’, we're never going to get anywhere.”
Senior Arab officials privately hold out more hope than they are publicly willing to share these days. They believe that Americans, especially Jewish Americans, have shifted in the past year and as a whole want to see peace take hold. One regional official involved in the process says the new U.S. President is sensing that change in sentiment.
After sizing up the different discussions at the Dead Sea and thereafter in Amman, one should not hold one’s breath for an overnight shift in the tectonic plates of the Middle East, but as Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations recently stated, the parties involved don’t want to be seen dithering either. There are plenty of fuses burning in the region, as well as in Afghanistan and Pakistan and action is needed.
Prior to our video reportage in Amman, I bumped into the chief executive of leading mobile group Zain Telecom, Saad al-Barrak. He was in Jordan to finalize a deal for Paltel, the Palestinian telecom group and swap shares in its Jordanian holdings. He is not letting the uncertainty of an elusive peace deal hold up business. Goodwill, al-Barrak says, is built during these difficult times, that when security arrives will pay dividends for years to come. It is the same strategy Zain has implemented in Iraq and 18 other countries.
Though doing business is not easy in red-alert zones for mobile operators, the freedom of movement and goods are not essential. One can make phone calls even when are hindered by road blocks and security checkpoints in the West Bank. Shipping hard, perishable goods is another story.
So businessmen on the ground are looking for movement from the new leadership in Israel. As Gamal Mubarak noted, “If we don't give the Palestinians some hope, a track - it's going to take time, obviously - I don't think this is going to be a positive or an encouraging start.”
As the temperature dropped on what was an unseasonably warm day in Amman, a leading businessman shared his enthusiasm for peace: with no checkpoints, and no security barriers the drive from Amman to Jerusalem would take less than an hour.
A year ago, I attended the Palestinian Investment Conference where a standing room only crowd to expressed their support for peace and invest in the territories. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then, but that has not stopped businessmen from visualizing the potential power of peace.
ABOUT THIS BLOGJohn Defterios’ blog accompanies the weekly business program, Marketplace Middle East (MME) that is dedicated to the latest financial news from the Middle East. As MME anchor, John Defterios talks to the people in the know, finding out their opinions on the big business moves in the region, he provides his views via this weekly blog. We hope you will join the discussion around the issues raised.
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