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Rami Levy joins Nablus economic summit, factions outraged

Nov. 5, 2012 4:49 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 7, 2012 3:57 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma’an) -- An Israeli businessmen who owns supermarkets in Jewish settlements on Sunday took part in a meeting of senior political and economic figures in Nablus.

Rami Levy, founder of a popular supermarket brand bearing his name, was part of a delegation of Israeli business leaders that joined the talks, held at the home of Palestinian business magnate Munib al-Masri.

The former secretary-general of the Arab League Amr Moussa, former Jordanian PM Abdelsalam al-Majali, UN special coordinator for the peace process Robert Serry and several other Arab, Turkish and European figures also attended the conference.

A statement issued by the organizers said the meeting intended to "form an international coalition ... to break the deadlock in the peace process."

"This is not negotiations, nor economic cooperation, normalization, or bilateral talks ... but an international meeting under the banner of a global body, the World Economic Forum," the organizers said.

Several Palestinian factions condemned the participation of the Israeli delegation.

Fatah official in Nablus, Mahmoud Ishtayeh, said that their attendance at the meeting, above all Rami Levy, gives legitimacy to Israeli settlements in the West Bank at a time when official government policy is to boycott settlement products.

Bassam al-Salhi, the secretary general of the leftist Palestinian People's Party, said that nothing justified the visit of an Israeli delegation, which he said undermined international solidarity efforts to boycott settlement products.

There are several Rami Levy stores in the occupied West Bank, which attract both Israeli and Palestinian customers. Palestinian businessmen warn the mass-chain undercuts the local economy, and profits from Israeli-government support to settlements.

On Oct. 24, Palestinian, international and Israelis held a protest at a Rami Levy store in a Jewish settlement near Ramallah, calling for a boycott of Israeli products. Four activists were detained and several injured as Israeli police and soldiers broke up the demonstration.
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