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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The most amazing business conference session I have ever attended

I'm sure that a lot of you attend business conferences. I'm sure that at most of the conferences you attend, the presentations are rather bland, everyone is polite, and the arguments are mostly esoteric.

I mentioned before that I was at such a conference today; it was the Jerusalem Wealth Management Conference. One of the afternoon sessions was on the 'Palestinian economy' and it turned out to be a real shocker. The first speaker was Dr. Oussama Kanaan, the International Monetary Fund's Chief of Mission and Resident Representative for the West Bank and Gaza. I wish I had kept track of how many times he used the phrase "restrictions on access and movement," because he blamed it for everything that is wrong with the 'Palestinian economy.' (In case any of you miss the reference, that phrase is a euphemism for Israeli checkpoints). I was sitting in my seat knowing that there were going to be no questions allowed from the audience at the end of the session (we were behind schedule) and dying to ask this guy why he thought there were any such restrictions in the first place (there were none until sometime around 1994, and there were large numbers of 'Palestinians' legally working in Israel until as late as 2001).

Lo and behold, the next speaker is a gentleman named Shimon Yakira, who runs a company called The Jordan River Bridge, which transfers goods for export from Jordan and the 'Palestinian Authority' through Israeli ports (unfortunately, no bio in the conference program, and his business card - which I requested - has no web site listing on it). He has an office in Jenin, but of course, he is an Israeli. The first thing he says is that he doesn't agree with anything Dr. Kanaan said. He then proceeds to rip this economist with a PhD from Yale to shreds.

Kanaan claimed in his presentation that the private sector in the 'Palestinian Authority' cannot develop because of (you guessed it) the 'restrictions on access and movement' and that therefore the PA 'saved' the economy by hiring more public sector workers at decent wages. Yakira pointed out that those public sector employees are paid NIS 1,800 per month (about $450), and yet have to buy the same products that we Israelis do and live in the essentially the same economic environment in which we live, and the starting salary in Israel (which is not so great) for teachers and police officers and the like is NIS 5,000-6,000 and what kind of job are people going to do for NIS 1,800? And before you go and ask the international community for more money, added Mr. Yakira, why is the 'Palestinian Authority' still paying Suha Arafat a $250,000 per month allowance to live in Paris? He told Dr. Kanaan to stop blaming Israel and to start thinking about how to resolve the problems.

He told a story about how when they got to Jenin, they wanted to build real homes for the poorest people and get them out of the 'refugee camps.' The 'Palestinian Authority' refused. They want the 'refugee camps' as a monument. (We've all heard that before - but it the context in which this was said was amazing). He said that in the 'Palestinian Authority,' the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and that no progress has been made in rooting out corruption in the 'Palestinian Authority.' And unlike most of us Israelis, this guy has first-hand knowledge.

There was another gentleman on the panel named Dr. Mohammad A.M. Alami, who owns a company called the Jerusalem Cigarette Company, which sells cigarettes. Dr. Alami started to complain that for the last year and a half he cannot sell cigarettes to Gaza because first the Israelis would not let him and then Hamas wanted him to pay the same excise taxes he was already paying to Fatah the 'Palestinian Authority.' He complained that because he could not pay double excise taxes, he gave up 20-25% of his market (which is what Gaza represented) and that instead, Hamas smuggles cigarettes into Gaza from Egypt. Mr. Yakira retorted that Dr. Alami was paying bribes to Hamas and that he was told that the only excise taxes he should be paying were to the 'Palestinian Authority,' collected for them by Israel.

There were more such quips that I don't recall right now (there was a JPost business reporter sitting near me taking notes, so we will see later tonight what she comes up with), but it was simply the most amazing business conference session I have ever attended.


At 9:33 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - I have a question - was Bibi at the conference you attended? He talked of resuming negotiations with the PA after his government is sworn in but I think real progress is a tall order because the Palestinians don't want to face up to the fact the mess they're in is of their own making. And until they do that nothing is going to happen.

Quite a conference you attended.

At 10:30 PM, Blogger Christian Holm said...

the shocker for me was that the IMF is there at all! Was the U.N. there too? I was rather amused at the last speaker you mentioned, who successfully characterized taxation as extortion...

Thanks for a great story, I'll be reading it again in the future I'm sure just to remind myself that in all tragedy there is comedy.

At 3:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They have a Covenant With Death they must fulfill, because they can't acknowledge how G-d is our only hope, so they make deals with Amalek and become ever more confused when those deals bring suffering rather than peace.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


Yes, Bibi was at the conference. He was the first item of the day. I missed him.

At 4:59 PM, Blogger Ʀăḥٹლąί said...

You haven't missed much in Bibi's speech. He called for a (suicidal) investment in the 'Palestinian' economy (turns out they have one).

Did we forget the American Jewish donors who contributed $14 million to buy state-of-the-art greenhouses which produced high-end flowers, fruits, and vegetables to large international markets. Greenhouses which were destroyed by the 'Palestinians', thus destroying their chances of economic revival.

More money will only fuel the hatred.

At 9:42 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Agreed. I explained on an earlier thread why throwing money at the Palestinians won't make their hatred of Jews disappear. It will only incentivize and strengthen their extremism. The Palestinians do not suffer from a lack of material deprivation. They have a shortage of moral culture - of a respect for human life, a regard for others and the basic responsibilities of living like adults. Mindlessly giving the Palestinian "children" toys, as Bibi is wont to do - is both foolish and destructive. They need to grow up themselves, not be bribed to love the Jews.

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is apparently a part of the Geula process


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