Alumni Spotlight: David Wallsh
David Wallsh participated in AJWS Volunteer Summer in Ukraine in 2005. He received an AJWS-AVODAH Double Impact Social Justice Grant to support his internship with the Israeli-Palestinian Business Forum. David is currently pursuing a master's degree in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
This past summer I interned with the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), a conflict resolution NGO based in Jerusalem. At IPCRI, I was responsible for supporting the newly founded Israeli-Palestinian Business Forum (IPBF). The IPBF is a joint body of Palestinian and Israeli business leaders dedicated to helping small and medium sized enterprises foster, develop and expand the strategic alliances between the Israeli and Palestinian business communities. It does this by promoting trade, investment and sustainable economic development, and advocating for policies and reforms that will encourage a more positive business environment for cooperation.
In a country with hundreds (if not thousands) of NGOs focusing on conflict resolution, each trying to find a special niche through which to promote peace (e.g. environmental activism, soap operas, rock bands and basketball teams), I was drawn to this project's practicality. As for my actual work, I was assigned to assist in the writing of a business guide for local businesspeople explaining how to navigate the many barriers to trade across borders.
My internship enabled me to study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from an entirely new perspective. Foremost, I learned a great deal about the business environment in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. I researched a range of issues related to legal structures, tax regimes, geography, climate and economic and financial sectors that drive both economies. I was also given detailed insights into many "facts on the ground," such as commercial checkpoints and the processes of moving goods between Israel and the Palestinian territories and throughout the world. As a result of this internship, I have a much more detailed picture of the important issues related to private sector development in conflict zones.
Though our business guide has only just been published (in Hebrew, Arabic and English), there have already been positive results. The IPBF hosted two conferences to publicize the guide, which has been enthusiastically received in both local business communities. In the latest conference, Israeli officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Finance agreed to initiate a series of meetings in response to some of the barriers to economic cooperation that we identified. It is too early to tell exactly what the results of the IPBF will be, but IPCRI is pleased to see that it has broad support in Israel and the Palestinian territories and is already raising awareness in government circles.
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