Palestinian Business and Investment Forum: Promoting Opportunity in the Middle East

October 14, 2008  • Institute Contributor

Contact: Jim Spiegelman
VP, Communications & Public Affairs
The Aspen Institute

Palestinian Business and Investment Forum:
Promoting Opportunity in the Middle East

Washington, DC, October 14, 2008–– Building on the staggering success of the Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem last May, which led to an historic investment of more than $1.4 billion in Palestinian businesses, the US-Palestinian Partnership (UPP) and the US Chamber of Commerce today hosted US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and other leading diplomats at the Palestinian Business and Investment Forum. During the day-long event, panelists discussed how the US private sector—both nonprofits and the business community—is uniquely situated to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the region. The event was highlighted by the announcement of millions of dollars in investments in the region by TouchStar, Cisco Systems Inc., and Intel Corp.

“Palestine is open for business!” Prime Minister Fayyad said enthusiastically before a crowd of more than 150 business leaders and entrepreneurs at the US Chamber of Commerce’s Washington, DC headquarters. “Get in on the ground floor,” urged PM Fayyad, who asserted that his country has not been touched by the recent economic calamities faced in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Fellow keynote speaker Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also challenged the business people in the room to “give voice and give reality to hope.” Sec. Rice said that Palestine is now poised to create the kind of business economy that will steer it toward a viable and sustainable future.

“The framework for negotiating a final resolution of the conflict is before us,” said Sec. Rice, who also promised to “leave no stone unturned” in her quest to create a two-state solution in the Middle East that would give Israelis a democratic partner in the region, Palestinians a free and independent country, and the region the power to build on the “potential of its people.” She ended the morning by anticipating a world that can “finally put behind it this seminal conflict.”

The major announcements made at the forum included:

  • The TouchStar Call Center: TouchStar CEO Steve Bederman announced a call center development project to help create 500 new job opportunities for Palestinians in Israel. The call center will be located in East Jerusalem, and it will provide Arabic and English language call center services for business customers in the Middle East and North Africa.

  • $10 Million in Seed Money from Cisco. Cisco announced it would be giving $10 million toward training of Palestinian business leaders and as seed money for investment in Palestinian businesses.

  • 900 Computers from Intel: In addition to training both professors and students on business development and planning, Intel will be donating 900 personal computers to Palestinian youth centers.

  • $13 Million Contribution to Youth Centers: The US Agency for International Development announced a partnership between the public and private sectors to create four high-tech youth centers throughout Palestine to educate and develop the next generation of Palestinian leaders.

Featured speakers included:

  • The Honorable Condoleezza Rice, Secretary, US Department of State
  • The Honorable Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister, Palestinian National Authority
  • General James L. Jones, USMC (Ret.), President and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy and Special Envoy, Middle East Security, US Department of State
  • The Honorable Robert Kimmitt, Deputy Secretary, US Department of Treasury
  • The Honorable John J. Sullivan, Deputy Secretary, US Department of Commerce
  • The Honorable Robert Mosbacher, President and CEO, Overseas Private Investment Corporation
  • Walter Isaacson, President and CEO, Aspen Institute, and Chairman, US-Palestinian Partnership
  • Ziad Asali, MD, President and Founder, American Task Force on Palestine, and Co-Chair, US-Palestinian Partnership
  • Berl Bernhard, Chair, Aspen Institute Middle East Investment Initiative
  • Jean Case, CEO, The Case Foundation, and Co-Chair, US-Palestinian Partnership

Video of the conference will be posted at


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