Globes - Tal Schneider - Bashar Masri is bringing international companies to Rawabi to tell Palestinian entrepreneurs about the market needs and conditions.

The JVP Play entrepreneurship program visited Rawabi this week to make connections. The fund, founded by former MK Erel Margalit, is a new accelerator that operates in cooperation with UK retail firm Tesco and Barclays Bank of the UK, and with help from Cisco Systems. Paul Wilkinson, head of technology research at Tesco Labs, came from the UK to consider possible cooperation between JVP Play and Palestinian technology companies. The companies operate on the Connect site in Rawabi - a Palestinian version of WeWork. This is where Palestinian entrepreneurs operate their growing businesses and receive infrastructure, organization aid, and even capital investments from Palestinian investors.

Palestinian entrepreneur Bashar Masri said, "This is important for change - to bring young talents among us to focus on the market conditions. We're only a platform. It depends on what they're creating; we're just laying the infrastructure here. We're creating the connections, and that is the reason why the place is called Connect. I'm confident that there are amazing Palestinian talents, and the fact is that international companies are coming and explaining what the needs are, so that they will be able to focus. I'm leaving the rest to the entrepreneurs."

The town of Rawabi is aimed at a young and advanced Palestinian population of the middle and upper class. 75% of those currently living there (4,000 residents) are in the 25-35 age bracket. The town plans to have people move into 22 new neighborhoods with over 6,000 housing units for 25,000 residents. Masri recruited Qatari businesspeople to invest in the town's construction. He is well known for his vision of branding the town as a leading special innovation center that will be a model for imitation by entrepreneurs from all over the West Bank.

Here is where Margalit enters the picture: "Bashar talked about a place of entrepreneurs. This place could not have existed without his vision. That is what leadership does."

Masri added, "We're laying the infrastructure, injecting capital, and investing. We're not leaving the entrepreneurs to their own devices, because they and we live under difficult conditions. Don't get me wrong; we're still under a military occupation government, so we're not trying to make the occupation look nice. We're presenting the reality, but taking advantage of an opportunity to improve our people's lives and end the occupation."

"Globes": Are you disturbed about what you hear about the declaration concerning Jerusalem?

Masri: "Yes, I'm disturbed. Any negative unrest is bad. We want positive things, not negative. I hope for the best, and I'll respond according to what happens, but it won't be good for the future of the peace process."

The idea of JVP Play is to achieve a turnaround in the way that entrepreneurs work. Instead of developing a company and a product, and trying to break into the global market only after they are on their feet, the new fund is bringing the international companies to the entrepreneurs in Israel and the Palestinian Authority at the early stages, and presenting the entrepreneurs with market needs and conditions.

On a day on which these meetings were held in Rawabi, US President Donald Trump announced his intention of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. Concern about riots and deterioration in relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was constantly in the background.

Despite concern about riots, Margalit and Masri are continuing to create business cooperation. Margalit believes that entrepreneurs can create bridges that politicians are unable to create.

We asked Masri about this. "I want to send a message to Israelis and the Jewish people. In the short term, if Trump does decide to declare that Jerusalem is Israel's capital, it may be a quick victory for the Israelis. In the long term, however, it will be harmful for the peace process, harmful for Israel, and harmful for the Jewish people. It looks like we are moving in the direction of an apartheid state, and that is good for no one."


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