|Reuven Azar (left), Deputy Head of Mission, and Moshe Bar Siman Tov (right), Economic Attaché, speak at the U.S. Chamber about political and economic developments in Israel and the region.|
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Israel Business Initiative (USIBI) hosted a political and economic briefing with the leadership of the Israeli embassy on September 17, 2014. euven Azar, the Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Israel, gave a political overview of the current developments in the Middle East and talked about the uncertainty afflicting the region and its impact on Israel.
While not dismissive of the numerous threats against Israel’s security, Azar spoke how they are giving rise to opportunities for both political and economic cooperation between neighbors in the energy, water, and logistical sectors. Azar expressed hope that these partnerships can create a “corridor of stability” in the region.
Earlier this month, Israel signed a deal to supply Jordan with $15 billion worth of natural gas from its Leviathan field over the next 15 years. Previously, the bulk of Jordan’s energy had come from Egypt, but the supply lines carrying the gas through the Sinai continued to be a target.
Similarly, with the war in Syria making trade through that country impossible, Israel has initiated a pilot project using the port of Haifa to transport goods between Turkey and Jordan. There are currently plans to expand this project to include a land-bridge in the border area near Jenin, which would allow for Palestinian businesses to take advantage of this trading corridor as well.
Azar then spoke about Gaza. While Israel has achieved an unconditional ceasefire, the situation is remains shaky. He added that real development of Gaza is not possible unless Hamas changes its policy of violence against Israel.
Moshe Bar Siman Tov, the Economic Attaché at the Embassy of Israel, told the assembled companies that the economic impact of the fighting in Gaza is both marginal and temporary.
“The effect is quite short and quite limited, and things are getting back to normal,” he said. Bar Siman Tov credited the agility of the Israeli economy with minimizing the disruptions caused by the recent fighting.
Bar Siman Tov also spoke of the structural reforms that Israel has undertaken in recent years, which have led to a lowering of the national debt and a competitive tax regime. Bar Siman Tov, who assumed his role in July, said that he looked forward to increasing U.S.-Israel commercial cooperation. Israel sees cooperation with the U.S. as an important part of its strategy to create more business, more investment, and more jobs, he said.
Azar added that there are a number of areas where American engagement can benefit both economies, such as with the strategically important sectors of energy, cyber security, and water management.