Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Kind of Boom in Mideast Commerce May Seal Arab-Israeli Ties

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Kind of Boom in Mideast Commerce May Seal Arab-Israeli Ties

Article excerpt

The day after Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization shook hands on peace, David Attar got a fax from Alexandria, Egypt.

"Dear sir," it read. "We are interested to represent your company in Egypt and other Arab countries in the field of night vision equipments."

Attar, marketing manager for Noga Lite Ltd. in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon, is still shaking his head at the thought of Arab countries eager to buy Israeli-made night scopes, a fruit of the military industry developed over decades of conflict - with the Arab countries.

With peace in the Middle East seemingly on the way, "I think there is going to be a boom in Israel, really a boom," he exulted. Other countries "now feel free to say, `Hello, Israel, I like you.' "

Israel's new potential to export to Arab countries is only a small part of the general bullishness now pervading the Israeli economy as the walls separating Israel from its Arab neighbors begin to come down and talk mounts of a peace dividend.

The Arab boycott of Israel and companies that trade with it technically remains in place. But increasingly the boycott exists only on paper. Foreign firms, smelling peace and stability in the air, are becoming noticeably more willing to explore trade with Israel and to invest in Israel.

Plans are developing for everything from an Egypt-Israel-Lebanon-Jordan energy network to construction of a highway linking Jerusalem and Amman, Jordan. Arkia, Israel's puddle-jumping domestic airline, is prepared to open a Tel Aviv-Amman flight, as well as hops to Beirut, Lebanon, and Damascus, Syria.

Already in a period of strong expansion, Israel's economy is projected to continue growing at up to 7 percent a year over the next decade - if peace takes hold, reports Economic Models, a think tank in Tel Aviv. Blue chip stocks on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange have jumped 27 percent since mid-August.

"If you add to the high growth rate the new situation in regard to peace developments, it gives the Israeli economy an additional boost with respect to the world treating us with a little more favor," said Yacov Sheinin, president of Economic Models. …

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