Historic opening of arbitration centre set to advance Palestine/Israel commercial dispute resolution
Israeli and Palestinian business leaders joined the leadership of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Jerusalem today to inaugurate the first dedicated Israeli-Palestinian centre for the resolution of commercial disputes between businesses in Palestine and Israel.
John Beechey, President of the International Court of Arbitration® of the International Chamber of Commerce, Andrea Carlevaris, Secretary General of the International Court of Arbitration® of the International Chamber of Commerce and Jean-Guy Carrier, ICC Secretary General were in Jerusalem to witness the historic launch of the Jerusalem Arbitration Centre (JAC) and the signing of a memorandum of engagement.
“We are hopeful the US$4 billion in annual trade between Palestinians and Israelis will expand significantly now that there is a mechanism in place to bring swift and fair resolution to commercial disputes and create greater certainty for the business community,” said Harold McGraw, ICC Chairman. “By strengthening commercial relations and improving economic cooperation between the Palestinian and Israeli people there are new opportunities to attract investments and enhance long-term economic growth in the region.
The opening of the Centre is the first measure to be taken, since the Oslo I Accord was signed in 1993, to establish an internationally accepted arbitration mechanism to resolve commercial disputes between Israel and Palestine. ICC has been instrumental in establishing the JAC, a joint venture agreement between ICC Palestine and ICC Israel. The Centre will serve as a wholly independent provider of dispute resolution services for the settlement of commercial disputes between Palestinian and Israeli businesses using specific rules drafted for the JAC based on the ICC Rules of Arbitration.
John Beechey, President of the International Court of Arbitration® of the International Chamber of Commerce said: “The Jerusalem Arbitration Centre is a truly neutral and independent forum, the purpose of which is to provide dispute resolution services in which parties from Israel and Palestine can have real confidence. The International Court of Arbitration® will continue to offer active support to the Centre, notably in the form of on-going training and guidance on issues such as the criteria for selecting arbitrators and establishing jurisdiction.”
A unique achievement for the region and for ICC, the Centre’s opening takes place just weeks after the Middle East Quartet presented an economic initiative for political agreement within the next year. The JAC has received the approval of Israeli and Palestinian officials and is tangible proof that agreement between Israelis and Palestinians on measures to promote resolution of commercial disputes in the region is possible. The Centre will be recognized by judicial authorities in Israel and Palestine with its arbitration awards enforceable in both Israel and Palestine, based on legal coordination with the relevant authorities.
“There is no other institution like the JAC in the world today. At this time when there is almost no dialogue between Israel and Palestine at the civic society level, we are putting aside our political differences to the benefit of resolving our business and commercial disputes in both regions,” said Oren Shachor, President of ICC Israel.
Until now, companies have relied on a mechanism provided by the Oslo Accords, signed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the State of Israel in 1993, to resolve Palestinian-Israeli civil disputes. However, as this mechanism involves governments, case work is often stalled by political and security related issues in both jurisdictions.
Samir Hulileh, Vice-Chairman of ICC Palestine said: “We believe that the arbitration mechanism will provide a decent and internationally respected means to resolve commercial disputes in the hopes to enhance fair bilateral trade between Palestine and Israel. We are confident that the JAC initiative will help support the political efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to resolve the conflict, as only a political solution can unleash the full potential of an economic revival in the region and bring long- term benefits to the legal profession in the region.”
The Centre’s international arbitration committee (the JAC court) will comprise nine members, including its President Yves Derains, former Secretary General of the International Court of Arbitration® of the International Chamber of Commerce. ICC Israel and ICC Palestine will each be entitled to recommend two members of the Court. The remaining four members, including the Vice-President, will be recommended by the President. Subsequent members of the Court will be appointed jointly by ICC Israel and ICC Palestine with the consent of the International Court of Arbitration®. The Centre’s governing offices are located in ICC Palestine’s office in Ramallah and in ICC Israel’s office in Tel Aviv, while the secretariat and hearing centre are based in East Jerusalem. Under the leadership of Secretary General Nadia Darwazeh, the JAC secretariat currently employs one Palestinian lawyer, one Israeli lawyer and one international lawyer.
The ability to resolve commercial disputes peacefully has been a core activity of ICC since it created the International Court of Arbitration 90 years ago, in consonance with the organization’s steadfast mission to facilitate international commerce as a source of peace and prosperity.
Following the official signing of a tripartite JAC agreement, Mr Shachor and Munib Masri, Chairman of ICC Palestine will be presented with the ICC Merchant of Peace Award in recognition of their contributions to the creation of the Centre.
“The founders of ICC called themselves Merchants of Peace, because they believed that trade and investment foster peace and prosperity,” said ICC Secretary General Jean-Guy Carrier. “Oren Shachor and Munib Masri have worked to create the Jerusalem Arbitration Centre, for the peaceful resolution of disputes, in the spirit of true Merchants of Peace. This highest award given by ICC recognizes their contribution to peace and prosperity in this region and in the world.”