The Merchant of Peace

August 6, 2013 by Henry Benjamin
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A retired Major General in the Israeli army whose career moved into the world of big business has joined ranks with one of Palestine’s most successful business identities to create the Jerusalem Arbitration Center designed to settle conflicts of a commercial nature between the two countries.

Major General Oren Shachor and Tom Misgav

Major General Oren Shachor and Tom Misgav

Scheduled to open later this year, the JAC caught the eye of a 32-yr-old Melbourne lawyer who single handedly organised a function in Sydney to introduce the cream of the country’s legal fraternity to this ground-breaking initiative to help settle differences between Palestinians and Israelis in the sphere of business.

Major General Oren Shachor was accompanied on his first visit to Australia by Tom Misgav, the Director General of the Israel National Committee. Misgav told J-Wire: “The Centre will deal with disputes starting at a thousand dollars all the way to several million.”

The pair followed up their meeting with the legal fraternity to share their thoughts at a JNF breakfast leaving most of the attendees spell-bound as little is known in Australia of JAC which operates under the auspices of the Israeli International Chamber of Commerce and the Palestinian ICC.

The disputes will effectively be arbitrated through the JAC bit it will in turn be connected to the parent ICC body based in Paris. The plan is to settle disputes using international arbitrators on both sides. The organisers hope that the the Center will boost investors’ confidence and are hoping to see trade between Israel and Palestine double from its current US$4 billion annually base.

Meetings leading up to the opening of the Center which has been built in East Jerusalem have been held in both Tel Aviv and Ramallah. Major-General Shachor  told J-Wire: “ICC is the most powerful business organisation in the world. It is effectively the commercial United Nations. The ICC’s slogan is that it is the Merchant of Peace.”

The Center is expected to increase business opportunities and consequently assist in creating many new jobs. In the meantime top Israeli and Palestinian lawyers are setting down the rules for the Center with the Palestinian lawyer attending the meeting in Sydney sponsored by legal giant Clayton Utz.

J-Wire asked Major-General Shachor how the idea started. He said: “With me! I became a member of the international board of ICC. There had been long break between talks with the Palestinians. I was involved with Rabin and Arafat.” Shachor, who had been the commander of the IDF’s military intelligence unit and the governor of the West Bank and Gaza left the army. Before he entered the world of big business, he was the head of the delegation as chief negotiator talking with the Palestinians. But he did not leave behind the problems facing the Israelis and the Palestinians. He said: “I asked myself – what can I do?  I was head of big groups dealing in food, housing and oil and eventually became the president of the ICC in Israel, later being invited to join the board in the world ICC headquarters in Paris. While I was there I observed my colleagues. Many of them reminded me of the privileged types who populate the House of Lords in the UK. They were very rich and I thought what can I do in this situation. There was a lot blah blah talk but we needed action. We had the slogan Merchant of Peace. In 1919 the ICC was initiated by very wealthy families in Sweden…and the slogan was born there. So I asked my fellow board members…”What are we doing to allow ourselves to be called ‘Merchant of Peace’?”

Almost four years ago, Shachor attended an important international business meeting in Hong Kong. He said: ” I invited my Palestinian colleague Munib al-Masri to come and he presented the idea of establishing the arbitration centre.We took the stage together and addressed all the delegates amongst whom was Victor Fong who is a member of one of the wealthiest families in China and head the ICC in Hong Kong. There were over 140 countries represented at the meeting and they loved the idea.”

When he was a Brigadier General in the IDF,  Shachor came face to face with the frustrations of working two quite different legal systems when dealing with the Peace Summit at Taba in 2001. It had been a serious attempt at establishing a peace treaty but the talks were discontinued due to upcoming Israeli elections. I was a young general at the time and saw how difficult it became to get all the parties on the same page. When I entered business, I realised it’s much better to be a general for peace and not a general for war….not to shoot but to talk. I found Munib. He is like the Prime Minister. He has a good relationship with Fatah, Abu Mazen and also Hamas.”

Misgav and Shachor came to Australia along with Palestinian lawyer Mazen Qupty because Adam Butt read about JAC. “However, we like to spread the word around the world. Adam wrote to Tom and invited us here. Not only to raise money for JAC but to get the involvement of those who can help and to make those who made need  it aware of what JAC has to offer.

Major General Shachor explained: “We want the organisation to draw on resources, both financial and human, from around the world but the plan is to start off small. The Center is due to open later this year and we will probably deal with about ten cases in the first year. I have come here to raise money for small businesses so they can grow. So we see new partnerships develop between Israelis and Palestinians and Israelis developing new businesses in Palestine. All the problems that unfortunately develop, will be dealt with by the rules of JAC. To begin with, we will offer only arbitration which means binding decisions. The Palestinians at the moment are not keen on mediation but I see JAC eventually offering this. We will have a pool of top arbitrators from Israel, Palestine and internationally. It seems that lawyers, judges and businessmen in Australia would be ideal.”

Shachor said that JAC was now starting to consider cases. He added: “We need interesting cases to catch the imagination of supporters but we will deal even with strawberry growers from Gaza…Gaza would be good for us.”

JAC will start exclusively with problems between the Palestinians and Israelis but plan to expand into other countries in the future “especially those who deal with Palestinians”.

JAC also will help subsidise those bringing their matters for arbitration.

JAC is planned on establishing business without frontiers.

ICC, founded in 1919 with the slogan “Merchant of Peace” will finally, almost 100 years later, bring its meaning to life.





One Response to “The Merchant of Peace”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    Am I the only cynical bastard who reckons that normal life with Palestinians outside Israel proper can only be achieved once they get rid of the Palestinians outside Israel proper, why not from the river to the see !!!

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