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Peace through Business Practicum and Entrepreneurship in Israel

Research Paper by Jessica Horst

Since establishment in 1948, Israel has been a popular conversation piece for its debated historical claim, strong alliance with the United States, and continued bipartisan news coverage. A topic of anticipation for entrepreneurial interest, criticism from international media, and a speculation to the public, Israel has rallied support, opposition, and even more confusion. Further complicating the issue, Israel is also an archaeological hotspot for many cultural heritages and home to some of the holiest sites for many religions, such as Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. With a spectrum of ideas, opinions, and narratives, relations in this small region of the Middle East are often seem tense. Hope still remains though for the groups to continue to come to social understanding through education, cooperative interaction, and mutually beneficial relationships through economic development. Years of unsuccessful conflict negotiations have led to the exploration of nontraditional methods to assist in the peace process between the Israeli and Palestinian populations, and to work toward equal treatment for all Arab Israeli citizens, which are exemplifying successful progress through integrated education, social entrepreneurship, and coalition between government and multinational business influence.

A Brief Introduction to the Conflict

After long discussion started by the 1917 Balfour Declaration, a letter of intent was submitted by the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour in support of the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, in 1948, the State of Israel was established on the British colonial mandated land of Palestine (Yakubovich, 2018). Created on a land promised by Britain to multiple groups of peoples for a sovereign state, since foundation, Israel has experienced conflict over geographical borders and its basic right to exist. Implemented since formation, the initial compromise, Resolution 181, known as the Partition Resolution, set borders of Palestinian and Israeli territory (Yakubovich, 2018). The original borders sectioned: the Gaza Strip, a rectangular territory between Egypt and Israel, the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel, and the West Bank, a territory that divides Israel and Jordan. While the United Nations approved the establishment of Israel, with the mentioned Palestinian territories, many Arab nations rejected Israel (Yakubovich, 2018). Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon immediately allied in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which promptly ended due to war within Israel with a temporary armistice that agreed the West Bank would become a part of Jordan and the Gaza Strip an Egyptian territory (Yakubovich, 2018). Many tragic conflicts have followed, including the 1967 Six Day War, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the first Palestinian intifada in 1987, the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, and many other attacks by surrounding Arab countries in the decades since establishment (Yakubovich, 2018). After winning the Six-Day War, Israel accumulated the Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula, but later returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egyptian control (Yakubovich, 2018). Ultimately, the dense historical timeline of conflict has resulted in the modern borders and land controlled by their own authorities: Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, Gaza controlled by Hamas, and the West Bank governed by the Palestinian Authority. Many solutions to the geographical disputes have been proposed by academics, some even offered by Israel and rejected by Palestine (Yakubovich, 2018). However, hope remains in the social demand for cooperation and peace by all parties involved. Pressured by the demand for corporate social responsibility, many businesses, some sponsored by governments, have begun investments in economic programs to facilitate peace.

Peace Through Entrepreneurship and Market Development

“Peace through Trade or Free Trade?” an article by Professor Patrick J. McDonald published in the The Journal of Conflict Resolution, shows how decreases in trade barriers, ideally creating a free trade situation, leads to decreases in the probability of conflict between cooperating countries (McDonald, 2004, p. 547). Some academics suggest increased trade promotes peace through intrinsic communication and transnational ties that increase societal understandings and potential for further political cooperation (p. 548). Additionally, academics suggest war or violent conflicts also become less probable as the costs of severing economic links increase as countries become more interdependent on traded resources for their own national growth and prosperity (p. 548). McDonald empirically tested whether greater levels of protectionism in a country, expressed in tariffs, quotas and trade restrictions, would increase the probability of international conflict in that nation by analyzing forty years of interactions in dyads, two-way relationships between countries (p. 548-549). McDonald expands traditional theories with his studies to also incorporate the idea that free trade between nations simultaneously transforms the domestic distribution of power by eliminating regulations that strengthened societal groups that benefit from conflict (p. 547). Grounded in the liberal theory fundamentals of “how individual incentives and domestic institution alter the foreign policy of states,” and “recognize that domestic interests and institutions filter the effects of commerce peace” which is alleviated by the effects of free trade (p. 568).

In Peace through Entrepreneurship, author Steven R. Koltai begins by stressing that countries with the highest rates of unemployment are often the most unstable (Koltai, 2016, p. 20). High unemployment rates in combination with a large young population can foster groups of young people who are “open to radical ideology and susceptible to recruitment to uprisings and rebel groups and terrorist cells,” (p. 20). As exemplified by the Hamas control of Gaza, social unrest and fragile states are often victims of terrorism or tyrannized by terrorist organizations. Reported by the World Bank in 2017, the West Bank unemployment rate was 18 percent compared to Gaza employment rate at a staggering 44 percent (World Bank, 2018). Meanwhile, Israel’s unemployment rate reached an all-time low in January 2018 at only 3.7 percent (Heruti-Sover, 2018). Additionally, Israel has given work permits to over 100,000 to citizens the West Bank and thousands more to citizens of Gaza to work in Israel to help ease unemployment rates and gives student visas to Palestinians to study at Israeli universities (Yakubovich, 2018). Often, and in recent negotiations, Israel has given additional work permits to Gazan citizens to arrange a cease fire of Gaza rocket fire on Israel and Israel’s retaliation. While government negotiations continue to fail, and the international community rejects physical intervention, many private, corporate, and government organizations have invested in the development of Israel-Palestine relations through establishing business and education programs in the region. Creating coalitions between Israelis and Palestinians, and regional trade interdependence, these programs are developing trade and social relations between the conflicting groups.

Successful Israeli-Palestinian Entrepreneurial, Business, and Education Initiatives

Established in 1987, the Galilee International Management Institute (GIMI) has been cooperating with more than 170 countries to provide advanced capacity-building courses for professional personnel, taught in a wide variety of language, from their headquarters in Nahalal, Israel (Leichman, 2017). Specifically emphasizing focus in the West Bank and Gaza territories, for the last 30 years, GIMI has worked to develop educational offerings and expand the regional economy (Leichman, 2017). In July 2017, the GIMI provided a training course focused on teaching Palestinian farmers from the West Bank, alongside other Israeli and Jordanian farmers, to join the major Israeli agriculturalists in producing avocados for international commercial export to Europe. While some participants were exporting avocados or other crops already, they were limited to exporting to neighboring Arab countries (Leichman, 2017). The program was created to “encourage Palestinians to grow avocados based on the excellent Israeli experience,” GIMI President Joseph Shevel told Israel21c, “We know there is a problem of exporting agricultural goods from the West Bank to Europe and we hope to help find a way,” (Leichman, 2017). With funding provided by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the European Union through the agency of Economic Cooperation Foundation, a Tel-Aviv based nonprofit think tank built to maintain and support Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab cooperation, GIMI trained 28 Palestinian agricultural extension officers who disseminated the new information to their communities (Leichman, 2017). Successfully, the program enabled a diverse range of Palestinian farmers to join in meeting the high avocado demand in Europe, of which, Israel is already supplying about a third of the winter market demand (Leichman, 2017). Additionally, GIMI has also begun planning a “breakthrough” telecourse for Gazan computer engineers meant to lead to future remote employment at Israeli companies (Leichman, 2017).

Another organization, Save a Child’s Heart, located in Holon, Israel, has been guided by the goal, “to improve the health and welfare of all children, regardless of the child's nationality, religion, color, gender or financial situation,” since foundation in 1995 by Dr. Ami Cohen (Save a Child’s Heart, 2018). Dedicated to the “mission of improving the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children in developing countries and creating centers of competence in these countries,” the organization has saved the lives of more than 4,800 children from 57 countries in Africa, South America, Europe, Asia, and throughout the Middle East (Save a Child’s Heart, 2018). To date, Save a Child’s Heart has also trained more than 120 medical team members from these countries (Save a Child’s Heart, 2018). One of the organization's biggest challenges and successes is bringing children from the West Bank and Gaza to be treated in Israel. About half of the children treated by Save a Child’s Heart are Palestinian children, from the West Bank and Gaza, and each Tuesday, twenty to thirty Palestinian children arrive at Wolfson Medical Center with their parents to be examined by Save a Child’s Heart physicians (Save a Child’s Heart, 2018). The children are accompanied by doctors from Gaza and the West Bank, who come to work in the clinic with their Israeli partners (Save a Child’s Heart, 2018). Negotiating specialty medical visas for their Palestinian patients and medical staff, the nonprofit also pairs with volunteer organizations and translators to assist at the weekly clinics, but these partners are mainly present to provide entertainment for the children, emotion support for the parents, and other social services (Save a Child’s Heart, 2018).

Other projects involve refrigeration storage construction, infrastructure development such as transportation services or banking services, and profession training programs (Dajani p. 378). Palestinian goods remain attractive to Israeli investors due to their low prices and well-qualified workforce, so investments are considered mutually beneficial economically in the region (p. 379). As social relations improve, there is also potential for the reestablishment of tourism in the West Bank, though more research on consumer opinion and civilian perspectives is needed to prove value to acquire funding (p. 383) With Israel’s market support, together with the West Bank and Gaza, the region can combine productions to meet domestic and international market demands. Intrinsically, social equity may best be supported with economic value through the establishment of social enterprises that meet the needs of targeted communities with sustainable opportunity for shared growth. Converting operations to a social enterprise system also allows for organizations restricted by donation funds to source a consistent revenue stream, which exposes opportunity for established peace advocates to begin their own social endeavors to fuel operations while serving the organizational mission.


Years of unsuccessful conflict negotiations have led to the exploration of nontraditional methods to assist in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian population, which are exemplifying successful progress through integrated education, social entrepreneurship and coalition between government and multinational business influence. As the international community awaits the results of long-term program effects, many are hopeful for a significant change in relations based on academic and political suggestion. Limited by the unpredictable political climate and continuous threat of terrorist activity, positive effects of business practicum are often out shadowed by the actions of groups who benefit from the instability of the region to serve their causes. It would be naïve to think business practicum and entrepreneurship will solve the conflicts between Israel and the Palestinian territories, but fostering stability and successful initiatives should influence the creation of a social and economic atmosphere supportive of peace negotiations in the hopefully near future.


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