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  • Toba Hellerstein

Editorial in the Texas Jewish Post: Texas economic policy longterm solution for Israel

Israel, like Texas, is a nation of cowboys.

It is a land of entrepreneurial spirit, determination, and a deep love for freedom.

But Israel is also a country under attack. Hostile neighboring governments, jihadist terrorist groups, and Europe’s anti-Israel outpouring continue to threaten the small, democratic state.

We can ask our government for political and security policies which support Israel. But there’s a problem with government: Administrations cycle in and out. Sometimes our government does right by us, but sometimes it falls dangerously short. So how do we keep Israel safe, regardless of which politician happens to be in power?

In Texas, our business leaders are the pillars of our communities. As such, our business leaders have the ability — and indeed the great opportunity — to flex their muscles and serve as the vanguard for Israel. My mission as executive director of the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce is to make this opportunity a reality.

Companies standing against the BDS

When Texan business leaders choose to work with Israeli companies, they not only benefit from incredible innovative solutions, but also they also take a stand in making our Lone Star state’s long-term economic and strategic partners.

Texas’ role here is critical because in addition to the countless wars and terrorist groups dedicated to Israel’s demise, there is also an increasingly popular international anti-Israeli movement called Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS).

BDS is a Palestinian initiative which seeks to vilify Israel and encourage international companies, academic institutions and even musicians to boycott Israel. It has gained momentum worldwide, and even seeped into the mainstream politics of Europe.

State legislators, including Rep. Phil King, are doing their part to pass legislation which penalizes companies engaging in the BDS movement. But while this legislation is an important step, our business leaders can do even more. With an overwhelming amount of critical technology coming from Israel, our companies are literally inundated with opportunity. The challenge for them is in identifying how to access it.

Match made in heaven

Israel is a very small country, but an incredibly innovative one. Since Israel is so small, its incredible technology seeks international markets and capital. And, as it so happens, Texas is in desperate need of the very technology at which Israel most excels. Perhaps most emblematic of this economic overlap is in the arena of water. Israel is the world’s No. 1 leader in water technology. In fact, it is a desert country whose water ingenuity turned it into a net water exporter. In Texas, water shortage issues are systemic and the public authorities are demanding technological solutions in areas like water desalination and water conservation. Thousands of industrial sites in Texas also have significant water needs, notably oil and gas downstream water treatment.

Take a moment and think of any water issue you might encounter, and you can bet your bottom shekel an Israeli company offers a solution.

And, if you forgot about Stuxnet, remember Israel is also a world leader in cybersecurity technology. Beyond military applications, cybersecurity technology is a necessity in the private sector as well. Financial institutions require data protection solutions, and critical infrastructure in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT) is suddenly vulnerable to remote attacks.

Israel is also a world leader in technology related to energy, biotech, and agriculture. You see, Israel is still the land of milk and honey, but these days the cows moo in binary code.

Just as anti-Israeli, pro-BDS groups have used economics to go to war with Israel, Texas can use economics to defend Israel. Indeed, how better to fight the BDS movement than by intentionally doing the contrary: Increasing trade and investment with Israel. Israel needs not only the capital, but the opportunity to become a critical partner throughout our economy. We know that politics follows the money, so let’s make sure that the money always leads us back to Israel.

The opportunities for Texas companies are endless, and the mission of the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce is to help our business community access all that Israel has to offer. Let’s show the nation, and even the world, that supporting Israel is not only our obligation as Americans, it is our great pleasure as capitalists.

*Toba Hellerstein is CEO of the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce.

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