Mellanox CEO: We employ over 100 Palestinians

Eyal Waldman,, Bashar al-Masri and Naama Sikuler Photo: Eyal Izhar
Eyal Waldman,, Bashar al-Masri and Naama Sikuler Photo: Eyal Izhar

Eyal Waldman and Bashar al-Masri told the Globes Capital Market Conference that business can be the bridge between Israelis and Palestinians.

An unusual discussion took place between Mellanox Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq:MLNX) president and CEO Eyal Waldman and Bashar al-Masri, founder of Rawabi City and founder and president of Massar International at the"Globes" Capital Market conference in Tel Aviv.

The two men first told about their acquaintance, which led to a fruitful relationship between their companies. al-Masri said, "We met by chance at a dinner in Washington at which we were both guests, and we immediately hit it off personally and became good friends. But our connection went far beyond personal matters."

Waldman added, "I heard about al-Masri long before we met. After we met, we understood that we both wanted to change and achieve results that would help both peoples. I very much appreciate al-Masri's work on the Palestinian side, and we're trying to work together to achieve results in our joint activity. We both come from a background of business achievement at a high ethical level, so we made a connection. We both appreciate doing business and love doing business, so we tried to build a win-win situation between our companies. At the personal level, we spend time together and have become good friends."

al-Masri remarked, "I think that the Israelis don't really know about Palestinian achievement and vice versa. We have mistaken concepts and when we meet face-to-face, we realize this. I think that the leadership on both sides, and more on the Israeli side, has to adopt a more open approach. If the two sides conduct communications between thousands of people, the leaders can turn this into millions. We have the same natural resources that you do. Every night I go to sleep and pray that Israel discovers gold, because then we'll discover it, too, because it's the same land. Our most important resource is the human resource. Every year, 4,000-5,000 students complete their studies with us. We have educated human material, a young population, but unemployment is high at 45% and 85% in Gaza. You have a big opportunity here; it's the angle from which you look at it. This population is not completely ready, but it's partly ready."

Waldman comments, "One of the interesting things is that there is great fear on both sides that leads to hatred. If there is a good connection between the companies, fear decreases and that helps improve the situation. If we lower the fear and understand that we can do business together, this is a situation from which both sides will profit."

"Globes": There have been many wars between the sides. The workers don't say that they don't want to work with the other side?

Waldman: "There were some like that, but just a few cases. The vast majority did not object. Not everyone agrees with everyone's opinions, but they can talk to each other, and this lowers the fences between the sides and it's possible to work together. Gaza is especially important in this matter, and if we employ more workers there, it will improve the situation of people on both sides."

al-Masri: "There were some who didn't want to work with the other side, but this is the voice of an extremist minority that you're very familiar with in Israel. We both have extremists, and unfortunately, they are the leading voice now. They have already criticized me for the normalization. I'm promoting and criticized me for speaking here at the conference, but I'm not worried about it, because a large majority supports me. Every day 450,000 Palestinians cross the fence and that contributes to both sides. When a Palestinian works for an international company, his salary is high, and although less than the salary of an Israeli, both sides can profit. We're not asking any company to come work here just to do us a favor. We can produce added value for those companies and there are at least 10 Israeli companies working with us in Rawabi."

From here this cooperation sounds good, but what do the leaders understand that you two understand?

Waldman: "I don't know what they understand and don't understand, but commitment to peace is needed, and it's necessary to understand that it's worthwhile creating synergy between the two sides. What's important is to make a change, and the fact that we have over 100 Palestinian workers and there are more companies entering there is likely to change the atmosphere not only for those workers, but also for second and third circles related to them. I hope this can also affect the investors. We can talk less and do more, take better workers, and improve the situation."

al-Masri: "We represent a small example of what can be. The work of Mellanox is not only the more than 100 Palestinians that it employs, but the more than 10,000 that are influenced by it, and all in all, the economy is super important, but the leaders are missing a huge opportunity of more than a few hundred or thousands in technology companies, and I hope that our example can help them look at the situation correctly."

Does the Israeli army help?

al-Masri: "There is no good occupation, and being occupied is terrible, regardless of who the occupier is. For the occupiers, being an occupier is bad. When we deal with occupation and work vis-à-vis military people, it's unpleasant, even vis-à-vis the nicest of them, because it's not a good feeling. Once they're out of uniform, it's much pleasant."

al-Masri adds, "I'm also critical of my leadership, but we're not a country yet, we're only a prospective country and we're undergoing a revolution. We signed a peace agreement, we recognized Israel, and this is the time to go beyond it. We're advancing towards a new leadership. I have criticism of the Palestinian government. They are using excuses and can do a lot more, but the situation is different because of the occupation."

Tell us a little about Rawabi.

"The main project there is a new city - the first new city founded in Palestine. It's a project that I initiated in 2007 and 40,000 people live there now. From Rawabi you can see to Tel Aviv, but unfortunately, although you can see Tel Aviv from it, most of the Palestinians in the West Bank have never been to the sea. A lot of Israelis visit there and it's the only place in the West Bank with no signs telling Israelis not to enter, so it's becoming a significant destination."

Waldman adds, "Rawabi is a great city with a good atmosphere. I've been there many times and it's the right way to follow."

Cooperation between you sounds good, but it's very difficult and you have to be very brave in order to establish this relationship.

Waldman: "I think that the cooperation between us is natural, and this is exactly what we want to do. Sometimes you have to show leadership and I think that more companies will join us. We don't have to be brave to do this; it's simple logic."

You yourself are having a tough time with the Starboard fund. Tell us a little about it.

"Starboard has been active in recent months and it hasn't always been pleasant, but we have reached the best solution, and a win-win situation has been created for both sides."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on June 21, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

Eyal Waldman,, Bashar al-Masri and Naama Sikuler Photo: Eyal Izhar
Eyal Waldman,, Bashar al-Masri and Naama Sikuler Photo: Eyal Izhar
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