Israel’s reputation as a laboratory for innovation and entrepreneurship is well known. Today, more than 100 American companies including Intel, General Motors and Proctor & Gamble have research and development operations in Israel, where designers, engineers and scientists from both countries are developing breakthrough technologies that are shaping global markets. Israel’s economic contribution to the United States may appear modest in terms of dollars, but the commercial relationship looms large in key growth sectors, ranging from health care and the life sciences, to information and communications, water conservation, and non-gas clean energy.
Beyond the bilateral impact a strong U.S.-Israel commercial relationship has, there are also far-reaching regional benefits to this alliance. In a region too often driven by conflict, economic engagement offers a means of bridging differences for mutual benefit. A case in point is the Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZ) that were part of the design of the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Agreement twenty five years ago. Israelis, Jordanians, and Egyptians are doing business together, employing tens of thousands of workers.
The U.S. Chamber, through its U.S.-Israel Business Initiative, will continue to find ways to enhance the commercial ties between the U.S. and Israel and fostering intra-regional commerce. There are myriad ways we can seize upon this opportunity.
One way could stem from Israel’s recent discovery of an abundant supply of clean energy. As one of the world’s greatest hydrocarbon powers, the United States is perfectly positioned to help Israel achieve energy independence, which could be a hugely important stabilizing force in the region.
Additionally, U.S. and Israeli companies are beginning to partner to develop cyber security applications and technologies to promote the national security and economic interests of both countries, as well as countries in the region that Israel has increasing economic ties with.
During their discussions, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu will have more than enough on their plate with the region’s troubles. But the peace and stability they hope to build will owe much to the commercial foundation on which they rest as the U.S.-Israel economic relationship drives both bilateral and regional commercial engagement. In that effort, the private sector, in Israel, the U.S., and among neighboring Arab nations, has much to contribute.
Brilliant is executive vice president for International Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.