Bridging the Gap - Israel and the Palestinian Authority on 3G Mobile Connectivity

The government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority decided last year to establish a mutual goal for improved mobile connectivity in the West Bank and Gaza by Palestinian Cellular Operators. They collectively agreed that advanced mobile communications should be available to the people in the West Bank, and eventually Gaza, by providers of their own choosing on networks that are separate and independent from Israeli networks.   

For that to happen, Palestinian operators in the West Bank and Gaza need access to space in the airwaves to send communications. They also need the ability to import equipment and towers for the delivery of signals, and mechanisms by which to ensure that the signals they transmit do not interfere with those delivered by Israeli networks and vice versa.

All of this is doable, but not easy.  Taking this action will encourage the economic development of the West Bank and Gaza, reinforce the idea that it is possible to invest in the region and see a return, and to create an avenue for the people who live there to reach the world with their ideas and services. That would, in turn, create opportunities for Israelis to work with a growing private sector and Internet-based entrepreneurs in West Bank and Gaza, growing the economies and security on both sides.  It would also give people inside and outside Israel an example of cooperative work between public authorities and private actors in an area, which is in the public interest.

Ambassador Sepulveda visiting Tel Aviv University’s Entrepreneurship Center  [State Department Photo].

The progress and efforts we are seeing today on the ground are commendable having seen where these parties stood three years ago. Once both sides made the decision to negotiate in good faith, the puzzle pieces started fitting together on paper.  For the execution to work, good faith and mutual appreciation for efforts on both sides must continue.

I have had the honor and privilege to come to know public servants representing both Israel and the Palestinian Authority during this effort, and last week I had the opportunity to engage with students, entrepreneurs, and telecommunications leaders on both sides.  I have been moved and inspired by the creativity, energy, and commitment these people and their leaders have to their respective communities. 

The scope of the larger challenge of promoting peace and shared prosperity between the two sides is humbling and being managed by incredibly capable people on the ground.  Cooperative work on mobile communications is a very small piece of the puzzle and we will continue to support the process to help make it happen. 

The way forward on advancing mobile wireless in West Bank and Gaza is clear.  Not easy, but clear.  We believe in the power of communications technologies to create opportunities, transform lives, and open societies.  We believe that Internet connectivity is as fundamental to economic development as roads, ports, electricity and other traditional infrastructure and see this project as part of the larger landscape of our Global Connect initiative.  And we will do whatever we can to help the two parties come together and succeed in connecting people in the West Bank and Gaza to modern mobile networks for their own sake and ours.  And maybe that will be the start of something more.  

About the Author: Daniel Sepulveda serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy in the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB).

Editor's Note: This blog entry also appears on Medium.com.

For more information:

  • Read other DipNote blogs from Ambassador Sepulveda on internet freedom and access. 
  • Find out more about the State Department’s Global Connect Initiative. 
  • Follow the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs on Twitter at @EconEngage and on Facebook to learn more about the State Department’s efforts to advance economic diplomacy, including communications and information policy issues.

Comments

Comments

Stephen K.
|
Washington, USA
May 30, 2016
You may be interested by the recent World Bank report on the topic: 'Telecommunication sector note in the Palestinian territories: missed opportunity for economic development' (http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2016/03/31/lifting-restrictions-and-promoting-better-regulation-to-unleash-the-potential-of-the-digital-economy-in-palestine)
Ambassador Sepulveda Talking to a Palestinian Entrepreneur about the Gaming Industry [State Department Photo]
Posted by Daniel Sepulveda
February 11, 2016

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