Foreigners have flocked to Israel looking for business opportunities since the breakthrough in the Middle East peace process, according to Israel’s Industry & Trade Minister, Micha Harish. ‘Certainly companies which didn’t come to Israel before from the west, from the Far East, are coming now in big numbers but Arab business people are also coming,’ Harish was quoted as saying to Reuters.

Jordanians and Palestinians were interested in infrastructure and trade and Gulf Arabs were keen to fund big projects, Harish said. ‘At the moment they are studying the potential, identifying potential partners. They are usually looking for a kind of tripartite co-operation.’ Harish added that many people have unrealistic expectations.

The minister said the Arab boycott was a ‘losing trend’ and had actually benefited Israel by forcing it to be more self-reliant. Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan, speaking in London on 10 January, said that Israel’s restrictions on access to the occupied territories would have to be lifted if the Arab boycott of Israel is to be abandoned (see page 7). Boycott issues were likely to feature in a visit to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan and Egypt by US Commerce Secretary Ron Brown in mid-January.