The hope-giving mission of the Integrated Business Roundtable is deeply rooted in the practical work of the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the vision of its founding partners, Avi Zimmerman and Sheikh Ashraf Jabari.
Mr. Zimmerman is a well-respected advocate for regional economic development, having led foreign investments and development for over 10 years in the city of Ariel, the vibrant capital city of Samaria. In January 2020, Avi transitioned out of his leadership post, with Mayor Shaviro’s blessing, to become President of the Integrated Business Roundtable with its broader mandate to advocate for economic development for the whole of Judea and Samaria.
Sheikh Jabari resides in Judea, in the city of Hebron, and traces his family lineage in the region back more than 800 years. He recalls much more fruitful times prior to the forced segregation and transportation constraints resulting from the Oslo Accords, when it was normal and profitable for Jewish and Palestinian neighbors to trade and conduct business with each other. Ashraf is a strong, eloquent proponent of supporting and accelerating the growth of Integrated Businesses in the region and raising standards of living for Palestinians while political solutions are worked out.
Since inception in 2017, the JS Chamber has grown to serve over 500 business members. Today it comprises over 250 Palestinian-owned businesses, 250 Israeli-owned businesses, and dozens of Integrated Businesses. Arising from the strong reputations and deep relationships of its founders, the Chamber has a well-deserved reputation for fairly serving all members.
In 2018, the Chamber engaged the Milken Innovation Center at the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research to create a strategic roadmap to guide the Chamber called the Regional Development Financing Initiative (“RDFI”). The Milken Center is an internationally recognized expert in development strategy for emerging economies and the effective use of impact investments as a catalyst.
The resulting RDFI provides a broad-based assessment that takes full account of long-standing development challenges in the region, including the anti-normalization bans on commerce from the Palestine Authority on the one hand, and the transportation limitations and restrictions rooted in Israel’s security policy on the other.
While clear-headed about long-broken elements of the regional economy, the Milken Center’s report also identifies areas of strength for the Chamber to grow and build upon. The RDFI cites a motivated, entrepreneurial business community; a substantial and available workforce in proximity to Tel Aviv; and a growing base of pragmatic integrated businesses. From this foundation, the RDFI outlined five areas for focused development and investment as most attractive for the region
- Technology and Industry, including the emerging Innovation Ecosystem
- Environmental Renewal
- Commerce and Service
- Cultural and Recreational Tourism
- Transportation and Infrastructure
In February 2019, Mr. Zimmerman, Sheikh Jabari and IBR founding partner, the US Israel Education Association (USIEA), hosted the first ever Israeli Palestinian International Economic Forum in Ariel.
On this internationally prominent and shared stage, Avi and Ashraf showcased the Chamber’s growth, the impactful RDFI plan from the Milken Center, and, perhaps most importantly, innovative initiatives from the region’s base of integrated businesses that offer a hope-giving path to shared prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Notably, the first Forum was attended by US Senator James Lankford and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Both US officials made prepared remarks at the Forum and expressed strong support for the Chamber and its strategy to improve living standards through greater direct investment in Integrated Businesses in the region.
The success and momentum of the Forum crystallized an important next step – creating infrastructure for local and international businesspeople to come alongside the Chamber with experience, mentorship, and capital to invest.
In late 2019, the Sagamore Institute, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, joined the Chamber and USIEA as a founding partner to help create the organization known today as the Integrated Business Roundtable. Sagamore is an internationally respected think tank known for its action-oriented policy innovations and its work mobilizing impact investments to repair broken economies.
In January 2020, the Integrated Business Roundtable was launched. With a distinctive mission that complements the Chamber, IBR invests in ideas, events, and programs that drive business solutions for shared prosperity in Judea and Samaria.