Idan Ofer Hosted Secret Meet on Israel-Palestinian Economic Relationship

A number of important people in Israel's business community met on Monday at the home of Idan and Batya Ofer in Arsuf, for a secret meeting on the economic relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Idan Ofer is the chairman of the Israel Corporation, one of Israel's biggest holding comipanies.

Among those attending the dinner, which lasted three hours, were former prime minister Ehud Olmert; Dov Weisglass, Ariel Sharon's former chief of staff; Bank Leumi CEO Galia Maor; Bank Hapoalim chairman Yair Seroussi; electric-car entrepreneur Shai Agassi; and former MK and the president of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Uriel Reichman. Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad also was present.

The dinner was formally in honor of Goldman Sachs executives, including chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who is visiting Israel. He was accompanied by vice-chairman Michael Sherwood, and Orit Freedman, the partner in charge of Israeli business at Goldman Sachs.

During the dinner for the Goldman Sachs executives, Ofer discussed his vision of improving the security and diplomatic situation through business.

Goldman Sachs and the Israel Corporation do much business together. For example Goldman is assisting the Israel Corp's Zim shipping subsidiary in its recovery plan.

At the focus of the discussion was the desire to find a way to solve the problem of capital flows between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, which is a major problem limiting Palestinian economic growth. For example, the laws against money laundering and financing terrorism, as well as the severe restrictions on banks requiring identification of those transferring funds, has made it difficult for Israeli banks to work with their Palestinian counterparts in the territories. These problems also affect exchanging Israeli shekels for foreign currency by the PA and banks.

The discussion also revolved around how to create a business dynamic to connect Israel and the PA economically. The intention is to try to understand where it is possible to overcome economic barriers without running into bureaucratic and security pitfalls.

Other attendees from the Israel Corporation were CEO Nir Gilad, a former Finance Ministry accountant general, and Amir Elstein, the firm's deputy chairman.