The Trump administration has tapped Israeli crypto startup Orbs to develop blockchain solutions for the region’s longstanding political conflicts.
The disclosure comes this week from a summit convened by the White House in Bahrain to discuss the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The New York Times reported Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said investments in the Palestinian territory would be like a “hot I.P.O.” The White House is aiming to put $50 billion behind it's so-called "Peace to Prosperity" plan.
Orbs cofounder Netta Korin told CoinDesk in an email that her team has been “working with the U.S. Administration and the State Department … on several projects that are currently in stealth mode.”
Korin, who is also co-founder of the nonprofit Hexa Foundation focused on social-impact blockchain projects, added:
Korin says the approach is emblematic of “a paradigm shift” in dealing with economic aid to the Palestinian people. “Where the default used to be donations, the future will now be based on investments,” she told CoinDesk. “The solutions that are being sought after will be innovative and game-changing.”
Stepping back, Korin was one of the few Israelis to join White House advisor Jared Kushner at the Bahrain summit. American economist Kevin Hassett even floated the idea of using blockchain technology to resolve land title disputes in the Palestinian territories, which perhaps overlook the fact such conflicts generally involve the Israeli military.
Previously, an anonymous source with knowledge of Israeli–Palestinian diplomatic relations told CoinDesk that blockchain solutions for tracking capital flows in the Palestinian territories have been discussed over the past year.
In particular, the source said, a meeting last October with U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Sigal Mandelker and several representatives from the Bank of Israel and the Israeli Finance Ministry explored such blockchain solutions. There were no Palestinians present at the meeting, the anonymous source said, although the Palestinian Monetary Authority is also reportedly exploring blockchain solutions.
Meanwhile, personal ties between the Israeli crypto industry and government bodies continue to deepen. Korin was previously an advisor to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, General Yoav Mordechai. Plus, Korin’s husband is Nadav Shemesh, a former aide to the Israeli Ministry of Finance Moshe Kahlon. This is hardly unique in Israel. For example, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s niece and nephew, Guy and Galia Ben-Artzi, are co-founders of the blockchain startup Bancor.
Danny Brown Wolf, head of partnerships at Orbs and former advisor with Israel's United Nations delegation, told CoinDesk that although "no one thinks technology can solve the conflict" blockchain solutions could help distribute humanitarian aid to Palestinians and "support economic development."
On the surface, it appears not much has changed since the meetings last fall, as the Palestinian Authority boycotted this week’s Bahrain summit. Although Korin declined to name any specific Palestinian partners or project plans, she said her team is working with Palestinians “on both the design of these projects and the implementation on the ground.”
Palestinian tech-industry leaders did not respond to CoinDesk’s requests for comment. We will update the article if we hear back.
In conclusion, Korin added:
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