Richard Branson: Without Mideast resolution, 'something ghastly' could happen
British tycoon on first trip to Israel as part of pro-peace delegation of Global Elders.
The press loves him. A media baron with a colorful lifestyle and exuberant joie de vivre, Richard Branson today controls an empire of no less than 200 companies, emblemized by the Virgin logo.
Branson, 59, signed the Sex Pistols to his record company when nobody else would touch them. He carried supermodel Kate Moss into a 747 at the bash celebrating the 25th anniversary of his iconic airline Virgin Atlantic - the only airline in the world to double profits last year rather than sink whimpering into red ink.
And now Branson is in Israel, on his virgin visit - no, not to buy El Al or set up a cellular company. He's here with the delegation of Global Elders, a forum of statesman, businessmen and peace activists who hope to persuade Israelis and Palestinians that things can be done differently.
On Wednesday, the Elders, with Branson and Skoll in tow, met with Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, then traveled to the West Bank, visited the refugee camp of Qalandiyah and ate the meal ending the daily Ramadan fast with representatives of civil Palestinian organizations.
Branson doesn't formally belong to the Elders. But he believes in them and is one of their funders. So is Jeff Skoll, founding president of eBay, who also joined the delegation to the Middle East and who spoke with TheMarker together with Branson.
The Virgin billionaire is perhaps better known for his business acumen and publicity stunts than for his views on politics, but he has them.
"As human beings, all of us wish to see a resolution," he said about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Because if you don't have a resolution, I think something ghastly could happen one day... I think that two states almost definitely need to be created," he said. "And I think there's an enormous opportunity over the next 18 months for resolution. I know that's been said for the last 40 or 50 years, but there is a great chance right now, and I think everybody's got to try to grasp that chance." For the full interview, click here.