- - Friday, August 8, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As the Treasurer of Ohio and a State Representative from Illinois, we write today to communicate why Israel Bonds are a strong investment for state governments. While one of us is a Republican and the other a Democrat, we find responsible investment and stewardship of tax dollars to be a non-partisan issue.

In our respective positions, we recently supported investment of Israel Bonds in Ohio and Illinois. We are proud to do so because first and foremost, it is a good investment for the people of our states. Indeed, investing in Israel Bonds is consistent with our priorities of supporting sound investments that focus on the safety and security of our constituents’ hard-earned dollars.

Israel Bonds are an attractive investment option for state and municipal funds because they maintain a high credit rating, are dependable and yield a competitive interest rate in a challenging economic environment. And, unlike other countries, Israel has never defaulted on payment of principal or interest on its bonds.

According to the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC), Israel’s economic growth rate over the past decade has exceeded the average growth rate of every advanced economy in the world. In the 2013 Institute for Management Development’s World Competitiveness rankings, Israel ranked 4th out of 60 countries for economic resilience, and in the 2013-14 World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness rankings, Israel ranked 3rd out of 148 countries for innovation.

As Warren Buffet put it, “Israel is the leading, largest and most promising investment hub outside the United States.” Consequently, it is not surprising that the list of companies choosing to invest in Israel includes Microsoft, Motorola, Google, Apple, Facebook, Berkshire-Hathaway, Intel, Hewlett Packard, Siemens, General Electric, IBM, Philips, Lucent, AOL, Cisco, Applied Materials, Johnson & Johnson, EMC, Toshiba and Caterpillar.

According to the AICC, Israel has the highest concentration of high-tech companies in the world outside of Silicon Valley. It is clear that, in great disproportion to its size and population, Israel is an economic leader responsible for much of the technology we use to farm, communicate, conduct commerce and save lives throughout the globe.

For many of the reasons listed above, over 80 state and municipal public employee pension funds and treasury funds have invested over $2 billion in Israel Bonds. And while these investments have yielded bi-partisan support and competitive returns for our constituents, such purchases continue to draw calls for boycott and divestment from Israel.

In Ohio and Illinois, groups calling for such divestment include American Muslims for Palestine, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Cincinnati Palestine Solidarity Coalition and Chicago Loyola University’s Students for Justice in Palestine.

Our message to these groups is clear: Not only do we reject divestment from Israel, but to the contrary, we will support further investment in Israel Bonds and will encourage policy makers across America to continue advancing the US-Israel relationship.

Purchasing Israel Bonds is not only a strong investment for our states, it also sends the message that as American policy leaders, we recognize Israel as our friend, ally and a beacon of American values in the Middle East.

For instance, in many locations in the Middle East, equal rights and democracy are not the standard. However, in Israel, women are treated equal to men, democracy is embraced and celebrated like in America, and the justice system operates with the same independence and rule-of-law that we cherish here in the United States.

In Israel, Arab citizens are protected, do not have to fear for human rights aggressions, and can live in a society that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender and beliefs. Moreover, Arab families in Israel have one of the highest standards of living in the entire Middle East.

Israel is also proud to claim amongst its citizenry over 160,000 Christians. In Israel, these Christians live in safety and peace among their Jewish and Muslim neighbors, just as one would observe on the streets of Columbus or Springfield.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East that values the same level of freedom of speech and freedom of religion that we hold dear in America. As Dwight Eisenhower said in 1952 and still holds true today, “Israel is democracy’s outpost in the Middle East.”

Israel has proven to be an economic leader in medical advancements, technological innovation and a host of agricultural and industrial processes that make the world a better place. This vibrant economy, combined with a safe and competitive investment return, supports the purchase of Israel Bonds by state governments and sends a strong message to those who oppose our shared values of freedom and democracy.

Josh Mandel is theTreasurer of Ohio and Carol Sente is an Illinois State Representative.

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