Israeli companies seek hi-tech help in Gaza

When Dan Leubitz needed a contractor for a project with his Israeli tech firm, one address in the list of tenders caught his eye: Gaza. It was 2015, only a year after Israel had fought a brutal war with Hamas. Leubitz’s rapidly growing firm Innitel was scouting for a contractor in low-cost, highly skilled tech hubs, such as Eastern Europe and India. But the Israeli-American had never considered looking in a territory just 50 miles away. The Israeli and Gazan firms have since formed an unlikely alliance.

“Now friends at other companies ask me, ‘Do you have the guy’s number?'” Leubitz said, whose firm provides cloud-based call center software. It is not uncommon for hi-tech companies from the West Bank, the other part of the Palestinian territories run by Hamas’s secular rival Fatah, to work directly with Israeli counterparts. But in Gaza, which has seen three wars with Israel since 2008, it is almost unheard of. Yet, the online nature of the tech industry largely avoids the Israeli restrictions that limit trade in other sectors. Leubitz’s partner firm has now expanded to work with a number of Israeli companies. Tech giant Mellanox, which makes technology that connects computers, databases and servers, employs 10 of the Gazan company’s staff and plans to double that. Agence France-Presse (AFP) has chosen not to name the company in Gaza for security reasons, but did visit its offices in Gaza City.

Its CEO said despite the potential gains, he believed it was the only Gazan tech company working with Israeli counterparts. “It isn’t an easy decision,” he said. “But we have complete conviction to take our services to the Israeli market.” He stressed that the relationship was purely financial and didn’t stray into politics, arguing that Gazans were simply looking to sell their services to Israel. He pointed out that Palestinian companies in the West Bank now deal with Israelis with relative ease.

“At the beginning they had problems. Now there are companies that have dozens of employees,” he said.
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