Israeli Settler Mingles with Arab Elite in Nablus

Palestinians observe from their homes as the Israeli military demolishes two Palestinian houses in the village of Hares near the West Bank city of Nablus on 7 November 2012 (Photo: AFP - Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

By: Fadi Abu Saada

Published Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rami Levy’s supermarket chains are a hit in Israeli settlements, so it came as a surprise that the Israeli businessman was invited – along with Arab politicians – to a wealthy Palestinian’s mansion in the West Bank to talk politics.

Ramallah – Not long after Palestinian youths had stormed stores belonging to Israeli settler Rami Levy near Ramallah, Levy – to everyone’s surprise – was spotted attending an event in the West Bank town of Nablus at the invitation of Palestinian personalities.

Not only that, but the event was also attended by senior Arab figures in an attempt to “Break the Deadlock,” as the gathering’s slogan purported, and create a framework to put pressure on decision makers.

Levy, who owns a chain of stores in Israeli settlements, came as part of a delegation of Israeli businesspeople who attended the Break the Deadlock initiative, held at the mansion of Palestinian businessman Munib al-Masri.

Speaking to Al-Akhbar, sources familiar with the situation said that the event followed a series of meetings aimed at creating an international Arab-Islamic-Jewish alliance.

This alliance would bring together independent Palestinian and Israeli figures who are influential in their communities, and who can sway decision-makers, in order to overcome the stalemate of the peace process and ease pressures on the Palestinian leadership.

The gathering was also attended by former secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa; former Jordanian prime minister Abdul-Salam al-Majali; the Chairman of the Palestinian Investment Fund Mohammad Mustafa, who was representing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas; United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry; and Jordanian Prince Firas Bin Raad, representing the International Quartet. Also present were Arab, Turkish, and European delegations.

An official statement issued by the Break the Deadlock initiative claimed that these meetings were important to put an end to the present political impasse, which has helped create a de facto one-state solution.

Ostensibly, the meetings seek to explain the reasons for this impasse and the risks it poses to the two-state solution, as well as to warn of the possibility of regional chaos.

The meetings also aim to highlight “the gloominess of the present situation and its inherent risks for Israel, while promoting the Palestinian question and the need to find a solution in light of its falling behind [in the list of priorities] because of the preoccupation with the Arab Spring.”

Interestingly, no Palestinian media outlet was permitted to attend the conference, while the organizers went to great lengths to ensure that several Israeli journalists were present.

There were several official and popular condemnations issued against the presence of an Israeli delegation led by Levy in Nablus, particularly since the latter had joined Israeli Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu election campaign two days earlier.

For his part, MP Bassam Salehi, the secretary general of the Palestinian People's Party, condemned the participation of an Israeli delegation in the meeting at Munib Masri’s home, saying this was “unacceptable and should not have taken place no matter what the pretexts and justifications may be.”

Salehi said that it was the duty of the authorities not to condone this type of meeting, which came as a stab in the back to solidarity movements and their campaigns to boycott Israeli products, including those produced by settlers.

Mustafa Barghouti, head of the Palestinian National Initiative, called on Masri to apologize to the Palestinian people for what had happened, and to pledge not to hold such meetings again. He then reiterated the need to boycott Levy, who, Barghouti said, “has built his stores on occupied Palestinian land,” the profits of which go to finance settlement building.

Mahmoud Shtayyeh, Fatah’s representative in the Nablus region, also condemned what he called the “suspicious” visit by Levy to the city, and said that inviting him was an affront to “the sacrifices and struggles of Nablus and its martyrs.”

“This kind of event serves first and foremost to further the interests of their organizers, rather than address the problems and economic crises of our people,” said Shtayyeh. He fully blamed the organizers for “any and all repercussions that could ensue from the attendance of this racist settler [Levy].”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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