Swedish retail giant IKEA is reportedly in talks to open a store in the West Bank, which would make it one of only a handful of global businesses with locations in the Palestinian Territories.
According to Haaretz, citing a report by Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot, two senior IKEA representatives met with the Palestinian Authority's Minister of Economy in Ramallah in June -- the first major sign of interest after Palestinian investors have been courting the company for the past two years. Talks are still in their infancy, with IKEA yet to conduct its initial analysis of the project.
IKEA already has two locations in Israel, and though the company hasn't committed to opening a branch in the West Bank, the move could pave the way for an interesting new form of cooperation in the region, as new employees in Ramallah would receive training from their Israeli counterparts in the Netanya store's employee training center, the Times of Israel notes.
That a major international company is considering expanding to the West Bank offers a bit of hope for the region's economic future. Back in March, the World Bank shined a spotlight on the worsening state of the Palestinian economy, stating that political tension and fiscal restrictions imposed by Israel threaten the long-term, global competitiveness of the Palestinian economy.
But is Ramallah ready for the trappings of western home life (assembly required)? The local business community seems to think so. A massive construction boom has transformed the city into a hub over the past few years. Despite some experts' fears that the renaissance is a bubble waiting to burst, an unnamed source told Haaretz that investors are confident in the West Bank's ability to sustain its growth and are already interested in acquiring a stake in the potential IKEA subsidiary.
"Arab society is undergoing a process whereby the large family is splitting in terms of residences into nuclear families," the source said. "Many are moving to apartments, and IKEA is definitely relevant to the Palestinian public."