Palestinian engineers strike stock gold in sale of Israeli chipmaker Mellanox

3,000 Palestinian software engineers last year It is a lot of money for the West Bank or Gaza’


Over a hundred Palestinian engineers are poised to receive a windfall worth millions of dollars thanks to the latest buyout of an Israeli tech company.

The company, chip designer Mellanox, had hired the designers and coders to work remotely from the West Bank and Gaza Strip because of a shortage of Israeli engineers.

According to a Reuters report the Palestinian contractors were offered stock options even though they were not permanent members of staff and now stand to earn up to $3.5 million (£2.8 million) between them, following Mellanox’s acquisition by US technology giant Nvidia.

It is a rare story of Israelis and Palestinians working together in business while their political and military conflict remains unresolved. Tony Blair, the former UK Prime Minister and Middle East peace envoy, is among those who has pushed for greater collaboration between the two sides in the technology sector.

The engineers work for Mellanox through software firm Asal Technologies, where 125 people are assigned exclusively to Mellanox.

The $6.8 billion Nvidia buyout was announced in March and is expected to conclude by the end of this year.

Murad Tahboub, Asal’s chief executive, said the Israeli company “saw value, they saw loyalty in the relationship. The Israeli market provides an opportunity for the whole Palestinian high-tech sector.”

Palestinian universities produced around 3,000 software engineers last year alone and many Israel-based firms see the lower costs of hiring them as comparable to bringing in designers and coding experts from India or Ukraine.

Cisco, Intel and Microsoft are among companies who use the services of Asal engineers.

But, Mr Tahboub added, Israeli economic restrictions were deterring risk-wary investors who ask: “Why should I invest in a startup in Palestine if I’m not sure if the owner of that startup can travel to the US?”

The Mellanox stock options are vast compared to median daily wages in Palestinian territories — $28 (£22) in the West Bank and less than half that in Gaza.

“We’re very proud they have equity, the same as all other employees in the company,” said Eyal Waldman, Mellanox’s chief executive, in an interview with the news agency.

“Thirty, forty thousand dollars for an employee in the West Bank or in Gaza is a lot of money.”

25 engineers are based in Gaza and both Asal and Mellanox plan to increase that workforce in the belief it could be a major boost for the territory.

“The more positive friction there is between the two people the better it is for us, for the environment, for the Israelis, for the Palestinians,” Mr Waldman said.

“I think we can have an impact.”

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