(Photo: Bustling downtown Hebron.)
Hebron, the commercial and financial center of the Palestinian Authority economy, and Israeli companies in the Hebron Hills may be joining forces to the betterment of all local residents. At least that's the vision promoted by Yochai Damari, head of the Hebron Hills Regional Council, who recently led Israel's Regional Cooperation bureau to meet with PA businessmen and community leaders.
Damari hopes to implement the proposals within three years. He envisions three future ventures, two businesses and one medical center. The first would be the construction of an industrial and trade zone utilized by Israelis and PA residents in Omarim, a mixed religious / secular community near Meitar in the Southern Hebron Hills. The area comprises 3,000 dunam of land and has been approved by the Israeli defense establishment.
(Photo: Yochai Damari, Hebron Hills Regional Council)
There is concern regarding the reaction of the PA, the governing authority which controls 80% of the city of Hebron as well as all Arab population centers in Judea and Samaria. According to Damari, he has conducted long meetings and conversations Arab clan leaders and sheikhs of various villages in and around Hebron.
"They are interesting mainly in health, employment and education," Damari stated. "I had long, private talks with sheikhs, with rural dwellers and with PA workers. They do not want the Palestinian Authority, and they do not want a future Palestinian state."
Joining the tour was Israel's Regional Cooperation Ministry Director General Hashem Hussein, an Israeli of Druze ethnicity. They met with residents of the PA controlled city of Yatta, located within the Hebron district.
(Photo: Hashem Hussein, director-general of the Regional Cooperation Ministry (L), and Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara. Source: GPO)
"The PA Gross Domestic Product is very high in the Hebron region," said Damari. "Most of the mattresses sold in Israel are produced in Hebron, he added, referring to such companies as the successful Herbawi mattress company.
"Disposable products, plastics, paper, etc. are manufactured in Hebron, as well as raw materials such as lime and stone quarrying. Every day a thousand trucks leave PA Hebron for Israeli destinations," he stated. Damari proposed create a logistics center to help facility the transportation of such goods and services and to protect both Israelis and PA residents against terrorist attacks that could potentially use the exporting as a cover for attacks.
"I received the green light from the Civil Administration. In two weeks I have a meeting with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major General Yoav Mordechai. I hope he will support the idea. I talked about it with the Prime Minister, he saw positive aspects. Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara (Likud), supports it and the Ministry of Economy in the picture. I believe we can make progress," Damari said.
The third venture is a medical center jointly used by both Israelis and PA residents that would connect Area A, under full PA control with area B, which is jointly controlled and Area C with is under full Israeli control.
Damari said that the population of Hebron, which is wealthy in comparison to other PA cities, prefer to receive medical treatment in such foreign Arab nations as Qatar and Oman. This despite four medical facilities in Hebron region, namely, Al Ahli General Hospital, Al-Mezan Speciality Hospital, Abu Hassan Qasim hospital in Yatta, and Bani Naim Maternity Hospital.
"My plan is to bring in Israeli medical professionalism. Let's start with a small hospital and it will eventually grow." Damari said private entities have expressed enthusiastic support, including a United States senator. "The only opponents are the PA and the European Union. But I know that if we are to live here together for years to come, then we must find solutions to accommodate the shared interests of both PA residents and local Israelis in Hebron and throughout Judea and Samaria."
(Photo below: Bank of Palestine / Hebron. Source: Osaily Trading Contracting Co.)
In the past, members of the Jewish Community of Hebron have held independent talks with Sheikh Farid Jabari, an influencial regional community leader. The community hopes that one day mutual recognition can foster a different kind of future for all residents.
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