Palestinians seek U.S. help in opening airwaves

By Mohammed Assadi

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (BestGrowthStock) – The Palestinian Authority urged the United States Thursday to put pressure on Israel to release frequencies needed for the development of the Palestinian telecom and IT sectors.

Mashour Abu Daqqa, the Palestinian telecoms minister, told U.S. envoy George Mitchell at an investment conference in Bethlehem that Israeli controls on Palestinian access to the airwaves of the West Bank were curbing development.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967. “The easiest way to make this sector boom by the way (is to have) access to 3G and WiMax,” said Abu Daqqa, speaking alongside Mitchell. WiMax is an advanced wireless broadband standard.

The Palestinian Authority has asked Israel for a wider spectrum of frequencies that would allow mobile operators Wataniya and Jawal to offer 3G services. Israel has so far refused.

Mitchell said: “I will do the best I can to promote IT specifically … You cannot build peace unless there is an economic foundation.”

Mitchell is mediating indirect Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations that got under way last month. Expectations that the talks will make serious progress are low.

“While we all work for and pray for the day when the Palestinian state is established — and we want it to be soon — everybody has to be conscious and working toward the reality of a strong and vibrant economy,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell was attending the second Palestinian investment conference hosted by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

Hassan Abu Libdeh, the Palestinian economy minister, said the conference had generated pledges of investment valued at more than $1 billion. “We are very much satisfied. The conference was a complete success,” he told Reuters.

IT is one of the sectors in which the Palestinians are seeking investment. “The Palestinian IT sector is very ambitious,” said Rula Ammuri, the country manager of Microsoft in Jordan.

“They want to make an impact world wide but they need the right infrastructure,” she said.

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(Editing by Tom Perry)

Palestinians seek U.S. help in opening airwaves