Successive American presidents and Israeli prime ministers have spoken out about the importance of the US-Israel relationship and how this alliance is sacrosanct, based on Israel's standing as a vital US military and political ally and a key outpost of Western-style democracy in the Middle East.
Yet one of the most critical elements shaping US-Israeli relations is actually one of the most overlooked - the commercial ties between American and Israeli companies. While these partnerships have generated innovations that have transformed the world, they're about to receive an infusion of energy that will change the countries' alliance for generations to come.
This month, the US Chamber of Commerce launches the US-Israel Business Initiative, a national effort to strengthen and advance US-Israel commercial relations. This new enterprise kicked-off officially with a global summit in Washington, bringing together American and Israeli government leaders and top innovators and entrepreneurs from both countries.
Following this event and working with partners both around the US and in Israel, the Chamber is implementing a multi-faceted program, including the development of grassroots and online educational tools, a high-level forum for American and Israeli business exchanges, and events that will shine a light on this aspect of the bilateral relationship in order to deepen our commercial connection.
US business partnerships with Israel really began twenty-five years ago this month, when America and Israel codified our economic relationship by inking the first bilateral trade agreement in the post-World War II era. That historic compact led to a ten-fold increase in trade between the two countries. As America works to reboot its economy, increased trade with Israel can provide a promising avenue for creating more high-quality jobs here.
In recent years, the US business community has begun paying increased attention to Israel, and for good reason. Israel has evolved from a hardscrabble economy relying upon on US aid, tourism, and fruit exports into a global economic powerhouse and hotbed of entrepreneurship.
Incredibly, Israel has more start-ups per capita than anywhere in the world and there are more Israeli companies found on the NASDAQ stock market today than any other country besides the US and China.
The Intel microchips found in hundreds of millions of computers world-wide, including the Pentium MMX Chip, the Pentium-4, and the Centrino, were all designed in Israel. Another innovation, Google Suggest, is an innovative Israeli-developed tool that reduces browser search times by automatically completing search queries. Israeli engineers originally designed the program with China in mind, where the length and complexity of Chinese characters made searches unwieldy. Following the product’s overwhelming success there, Google rolled it out in more than a hundred other countries, including the United States.
While around the United States a tremendous amount of good work has been done to spotlight Israeli innovation and to help foster connections and relationships, so much more can be done to capture the energy and promise that Israel offers to American companies and the broader US-Israel relationship.
The Chamber's October summit is the launching pad for a long-term Chamber-led initiative. In the months and years ahead the Chamber will help lead the way in increasing awareness of the opportunities created by Israeli commercial partnerships. The role of catalyst for this endeavor is a natural fit for the Chamber, which is at the forefront of American trade, representing the business interests of small, medium and large American companies. From our headquarters near the White House we maintain a professional staff of hundreds of the nation's top policy experts, lobbyists, lawyers, and communicators.
As the Chamber embarks on this new project, we are fortunate that we can build on the excellent work that has taken place for years at the local, state and regional levels through the US-Israel chambers of commerce, the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce in Tel Aviv, and other business groups around the country. These organizations have played a vital role and we look forward to joining forces with them in order to advance our shared goals.
By pooling resources and talent, the US and Israel are creating a remarkable synergy that is good for both countries and literally changing our world. We have already seen the impact on a wide range of industries from energy to life sciences to communications and technology where the examples are too numerous to name. Israel's modern-day impact around the globe is fulfilling an ancient mandate to serve as a light unto the nations.
By building upon burgeoning ties of industry and ingenuity, and with the Chamber's Business Initiative providing a framework, America and Israel have a unique opportunity to use commerce to deepen relations between our countries.
Such efforts will enable both nations to move from strength the strength in the years ahead to help deliver increased economic prosperity and innovation that benefits not just America and Israel and our hardworking citizens, but ultimately billions of people all across the world.
The author is Senior Vice President for International Affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 28, 2010
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