The pronoun “We”. I hear that a lot in the Palestinian business community. “WE are selling cars from America…WE are an outsourcing hub for Google…WE are delivering our olive oil to global markets.” It’s rarely, “I won this contract” or “I am shipping to this country.” It’s we. In my nearly three years as the senior American diplomat in Jerusalem I never cease to admire the sense community among Palestinian business people.
It also makes sound business sense. Studies show that teams outperform the lone genius. Heterogeneous teams are more creative and productive than homogeneous teams. Recently during Startup-Weekend at the business incubator Leaders Organization in Ramallah that we finance, I saw a highly diverse group of men and women of various educational and socio-economic backgrounds collaborating seamlessly on high technology applications, many of which will hopefully come to market soon. We sponsored and facilitated the travel of a delegation of young Palestinians to Global Entrepreneurship Week in Marrakech in November. The delegation included Palestinians from the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza. They came home recently having inked a lucrative design contract for a Georgia-based manufacturing firm; quite a feat for the team!
Despite all the challenges, we are open for business, and you have a viable partner in us.
When you go inside successful companies, be it in Ramallah or Silicon Valley, you can almost draw a straight line between business results and the mix of their teams. The United States government has partnered with a number of Palestinian businesses to link them with American entrepreneurs and businesses. These collaborations between East and West have been profitable for both. USAID’s Compete Program linked Palestinian farmers to international companies such as Whole Foods, Williams Sonoma and LAYS and increased Palestinian agribusiness exports by $25m from 2012 to 2013 while giving these multinationals a new, high quality low cost supply chain.
Since these partnerships have proven so effective in growing the bottom line, we are hard at work at extending cooperation between Palestinian and American business leaders. From December 7 to 13, a Palestinian business delegation from the Palestinian-American Chamber of Commerce and I traveled to the United States to explore new partnerships and business deals. We were in Chicago, Minneapolis and Washington, DC, visiting a number of businesses, including Cargill and Motorola, and the Palestinians had a clear message: Despite all the challenges, we are open for business, and you have a viable partner in us.
Palestinian business leaders know where they are heading and why. They recognise the value of teams, of partnerships, of diverse perspectives and interests that are harmoniously woven together to produce a win-win situation. While our long-term goal of peace between Palestinians and Israelis may appear elusive to some, I am heartened by the Palestinian business community and believe that the team and partnership lessons of commerce will one day bear fruit in securing a future Palestinian state.
Michael Ratney is the US Consul General to Jerusalem.