Dubai: A prominent Israeli business leader said a top Qatari businessman and member of the royal family is mulling a visit to Jerusalem later this year to boost Israeli-Palestinian commercial ties, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Shaikh Khalifa bin Jassim Al Thani, head of the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he wants to attend the inauguration of an arbitration court for businesses disputes between Israelis and Palestinians, according to Oren Shachor, the head of the Israeli Chamber of Commerce and a former general in the Israeli military, who met Sheikh Khalifa in Doha last week.
“He said, “I can tell you that I want to come, but sometimes surprises happen. Barring that, I promise to come,”” Shachor told the WSJ. “It’s an opening to a dialogue – definitely on economic issues, and possibility on diplomatic issues.”
The trip would mark the highest ranking visit by a Gulf royal to territory under Israeli sovereignty.
An Israeli foreign ministry official however expressed caution, stating no formal plan had been presented by the Qatari government, and that Israelis have often talked about plans for cooperation and normalization with Arab states don’t come to fruition.
In recent time Qatar has been increasingly off step with GCC policies but the media report that one of the top businessman in the country, and member of the royal family, is thinking about visiting Israel to boost commercial ties is said to have caught many off guard.
It would also seem out of step with the Qatari line: The Emir of Qatar shut down Israel’s trade office in Qatar in 2009 to protest Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
The Wall Street Journal said it had made several unsuccessful attempts to reach Shaikh Khalifa over the past two days.
Jerusalem Arbitration Center
The Jerusalem Arbitration Center is designed to give Israeli and Palestinian businessmen a means to adjudicate cross-border dispute in a neutral forum with the aim of expanding $4 billion annual trade.
The court will be chaired by Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, a Turkish business leader close to Turkish President Abdullah Gul.