- The Washington Times - Monday, October 18, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

One of the most overlooked elements of the U.S.-Israeli alliance is the commercial relationships between American and Israeli companies. These partnerships have generated innovations that have transformed the world, and they’re about to receive an infusion of energy that will change the countries’ alliance for generations to come.

This business partnership was spurred 25 years ago this month when the countries inked the first bilateral trade agreement in the post-World War II era. The historic compact led to a tenfold increase in trade between the two countries.

In an effort to build on this momentum and create the world’s strongest high-tech commercial trading relationship, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching the U.S.-Israel Business Initiative this month. This new enterprise will kick off with a global summit in Washington, bringing together government leaders, top innovators and entrepreneurs from both countries in order to explore opportunities for enhanced partnership.

Following this event and working with partners both around the United States and in Israel, the chamber will roll out a multifaceted program, including the development of grass-roots 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 and deepen our commercial connection.

As America works to reboot its sagging economy, these events will provide a promising avenue for creating more high-quality jobs here at home. It will build on the success of programs such as the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation. Jointly established by the U.S. and Israeli governments in the late 1970s to generate significant corporate cooperation, the program resulted in more than 800 projects, an estimated $8 billion in revenue, and the creation of thousands of jobs in the United States.

This success reflects Israel’s evolution from a hardscrabble economy relying upon on U.S. aid, tourism and fruit exports into a hotbed of entrepreneurship in the high-tech industry. Today, Israel has more start-ups per capita than any place in the world, and Israel has more companies on the NASDAQ than any other countries besides the United States and China.

Reflecting on these facts, it came as little surprise when Warren Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway in making its first-ever acquisition abroad by purchasing 80 percent of the Israeli toolmaker Iscar in 2006. Mr. Buffett told an Israeli newspaper at the time, “I believe in the Israeli market and the Israeli economy, and I think that this is a good time to invest in it.” AT&T followed his lead in July by announcing that its first innovation center outside the United States would be located in Israel.

More important, the products being developed in Israel by these household names are changing the world. The Intel microchips found in hundreds of millions of computers across the globe, including the Pentium MMX Chip, the Pentium-4 and the Centrino, were all designed in Israel. Google Suggest is an innovative Israeli-developed tool that reduces browser search times by automatically completing search queries. Israeli engineers designed the program with China in mind, as the length and complexity of Chinese characters made searches unwieldy. Following the product’s overwhelming success there, Google rolled it out in more than 100 other countries, including the United States.

By pooling resources and talent, the United States and Israel already are creating a remarkable synergy that is good for both countries and literally changing our world. We already have 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.

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 further strengthen relations between our counties.

Such efforts will enable both nations to help deliver increased economic prosperity and innovation that benefits not just Americans and Israelis, but ultimately billions of people all across the world.

Myron Brilliant is senior vice president for international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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