Wednesday, July 8, 2009

An Interview with Abdel Malik Jaber, Outgoing CEO of Paltel Group

I met with Abdel Malik Jaber, the outgoing CEO of Paltel Group of which Jawwal is a subsidiary, on the day after he returned from Jordan, where the historic merger agreement between Zain Group and Paltel Group had been signed.

Our interview had originally been scheduled for the day before, but when he got tied up in Jordan, he graciously instructed his secretary to give me his cell phone number and have me contact him directly. Jaber’s spacious office included an artistic rendering of a fruitless olive tree superimposed on the picture of a young girl.

“Definitely nobody can accuse the business community of being anti-peace,” Jaber said. “The business community not only aspires, but works hard for peace because it has a vested interest in having peace in the region. But we are the main losers out of the continuation of the conflict.”

When I asked about Wataniya’s difficulties getting its frequencies released and its equipment cleared through customs, Jaber said the Israeli government regularly used the guise of “security” to renege on commitments. His company encountered difficulties similar to Wataniya’s in trying to get more frequency for its use.

“Since 1996, we have asked for frequencies from the Israeli side and all the time we are having difficulties,” he said. “How come we get about a tenth of the spectrum [that the Israelis get]?” Jaber said that the Israelis’ failure to implement what they have signed on is “a clear indication that the Israelis don’t want to see private sector development in Palestine.”

He continued, “The Israelis have plenty of frequency in the 1800 range. It doesn’t make sense that they are not giving frequencies because of shortages or the army or something like that. No one can convince me of that.”

Jaber also challenged the notion that Jawwal was a monopoly. “When we started in the Palestinian market, we were 25 percent of the market,” he said. “We were efficient. We were effective. And we competed with the Israeli operators on our own.”

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